Published in the December 24, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD—Opening Night at the Charbonneau Field House saw the Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ varsity basketball team host Wilmington in what was only the second game of the year for the Warriors after Tuesday’s game against Reading was cancelled due to snow.

Wakefield played ungracious hosts as they ran the Wildcats off the floor to the tune of a 79-44 victory, bringing their record to 2-0 on the season.

The Warriors got off to a hot start with a 21-point first quarter performance including three of the team’s 11 three-pointers for the game.

The offensive attack was led by the three-pronged weapon of senior Quinn Bayers (19 points), junior Brett Okundaye (16 points, 13 in the first half), and senior Ryan Marcus (19 points).

The three guards used intense ball pressure on the defensive side, combined with speed and athleticism to cause havoc in the Wilmington back court, and led to some easy transition baskets for the Warriors.

Some advanced scouting tipped off head coach Brad Simpson that some intense pressure might lead to some quick points.

“Reg Hobbs is our scout guy and he came back from their Belmont game and he said that Wilmington is pretty good in transition from defense to offense, but very poor transitioning from offense to defense, and we saw that tonight. In that first quarter we really took advantage of that,” said Simpson.

Bayers led the way in the first quarter with seven points while Marcus and Okundaye chipped in six apiece. A pair of Paul Holman free throws brought the Warriors total to 21, while allowing Wilmington to score only eight points.

While the offense slowed just a little in the second quarter, the Warrior defense didn’t let up. After allowing three made field goals in the first quarter, Wilmington could manage to sink just one shot in the second quarter, leading to an offensively inept 13 first half points.

Crucial to the Warriors’ first half performance was securing missed shots on the defensive glass, and getting out in transition.

“If we’re going to be any good, we need to rebound defensively against everybody, and with a couple of exceptions I thought we did a very good job boxing out, and getting our rebounds, which allowed us to run,” said Simpson.

Senior forward Pat Collins helped start the fast break in the first half, as he pulled down four defensive rebounds. He finished with seven boards and two steals on the night.

“Pat Collins doesn’t do an awful lot in terms of scoring,” Coach Simpson said of his senior forward. “But it’s his deflections, rebounds and steals – his defense. I think he’s going to really emerge as our glue guy; he’ll do all the little things that keep the team rolling.”

Wakefield tallied 14 in the second quarter alone, as Bayers and Okundaye proved they have fast formed a formidable back court combo, combining for an additional five and seven points respectively. Marcus added two second quarter points as the Warriors held a 35-13 lead at halftime.

Wakefield came out hot in the third quarter with Marcus in particular going off for 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Bayers added four points, and Okundaye added a free throw to his total, but the Warriors saw meaningful minutes from the bench.

Sophomore Jeff DiFazio played well defensively spelling Bayers for a period of time in the 2nd half while Chris Alden and Chris Miller chipped in with points off the bench.

One concern for coach Simpson was the quality and amount of open looks the Wildcats were able to find. Luckily for the Warriors, only Wilmington’s Thomas Mallinson had any sort of rhythm. Mallinson led all scorers with 29 points, including seven three-pointers.

“We knew Mallinson was a shooter,” lamented Coach Simpson. “This kid’s a sophomore and he’s a major player; we struggled covering him.”

When asked if having one player go off for 29 points was concerning to him the coach said, “That does concern me, because I think there are teams in this league that have two kids who can shoot, two out of five or three out of five on a good night, but I don’t know if we’ll see another kid who can shoot like this, he was hitting three and four in a row.”

“We talked about him at halftime,” the coach added, “and we still didn’t do a very good job covering him, but that is a credit to him and a credit to their team.”

Despite Mallinson’s efforts, the Warriors were too much to handle. Coach Simpson was able to go deep into his bench with a big lead in the fourth quarter as players like Lucas Smith, Charlie Shea, and Owen Michaud all knocked down three’s in the final quarter. Dan King, Andrew Quinn, and Zack Atoui all got in and they all got into the scoring column as the Warriors put 21 up on the board in the fourth and easily claimed their second victory of the season.

“I was happy that our bench got in,” reported the coach. “Lucas Smith was a kid who didn’t make the team last year, but stayed on as sort of a player/manager. He was such a great kid last year, he worked hard and earned a uniform as a senior. He came out and knocked down a three, it was all good, tonight was good.”

On the depth of the team being a great strength, Simpson added, “We have a lot of guys. Some years you’re glad the games are only 32 minutes because you don’t have enough players, but then there are years like this, when I wish the game was 40 minutes long because those kids could get in and play 12-13 minutes and it would only get better.”

The Warriors played Malden in the Greater Boston League/Middlesex League Shootout at UMass Boston on Sunday. Wakefield ran away with a 73-47 victory. Bayers and Okundaye led the Warriors with 16 point apiece.

The Middlesex League edged the GBL 3-2 in the shootout as Melrose hung on to beat Medford 43-39 and Woburn beat Revere 59-44. Everett topped Belmont 61-57 and Somerville beat Watertown 48-44 to pick up the wins for the GBL.

Wakefield plays two more at home, vs. Revere on Friday night at 5 p.m. and Swampscott on Monday night at 7 p.m. before league play resumes on Friday, Jan. 3 as the Warriors make their annual trip to Melrose to play the Red Raiders.