Published in the January 16, 2020 edition.


ARLINGTON — A high school basketball game is never over.

So, when the Wakefield High boys’ basketball team scorched the nets at Arlington High in the first four minutes, finally forcing a timeout with the score 12-2, of course it wasn’t over – it just felt that way.

“We wanted to run the floor tonight,” said Wakefield head coach Brad Simpson. “We did a really good job of that.”

The Warriors stayed aggressive throughout the night on their way to a 67-54 victory, a 6-3 overall record and a 4-2 league mark.

Wakefield’s leading scorer once again was Brett Okundaye who had 23 points and eight rebounds. The junior had eight points in a first quarter that ended 20-6 Wakefield.

“Of course Brett…” said Simpson who didn’t need to go on except with a look that said “you already know.”

Everyone in the gym could tell Okundaye doesn’t miss much.

“And if he does miss, he’s right there to get the rebound,” said Simpson.

Luckily the junior didn’t have to display that part of his game much against the Spy Ponders. He shot 10-for-14 from the field. That’s a percentage of 71. That’s good.

The Warriors also got 14 points each from captains Ryan Marcus and Quinn Bayers. Bayers, playing in his first game since Jan. 3, jumped right back into it, shooting 3-for-5 in the first half including 2-for-2 from 3-point range. His first 3 was a stepback from the left wing that forced the timeout with the score 12-2. His second made it 27-9 in the second quarter.

The absence of Bayers hurt the team in their loss to Lexington on Jan. 7. The silver lining was that the Warriors could clearly see a recipe of success once he returned. With Marcus playing more of a facilitating role, especially in the first half when he had four of his six assists, Bayers, Okundaye, Pat Collins and Chris Alden were free to run the floor as hard as they could, fill the lanes and convert layups.

“Ryan was very unselfish and conscious about finding, especially Brett and Quinn in the open floor,” said Simpson.

It’s how the Warriors will prefer to play moving forward. They aren’t the tallest team in the league, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a faster one.

Speaking of the press, Wakefield was in a full court one for most of the night; it worked to the tune of 14 steals, three from Okundaye and Alden. Those only led to more transition opportunities.

The Warriors started a smaller lineup with Alden in for Paul Holman. That successfully got the tempo up from the start. Holman provided a valuable boost from the bench as did fellow big man Chris Miller.

“I thought Chris Miller and Paul Holman gave us a nice lift off the bench,” said Simpson.

Holman had five rebounds, one of which in the second quarter when he collected his own miss and put it back in for a 31-14 lead.

Marcus finished the first half with a strong off-hand layup and a corner 3 off a nice dish from Bayers to give the visitors a 36-23 lead at the break.

Arlington scored the first two buckets of the third quarter, trimming the lead to 36-27. It was the last time the advantage was in single digits. Marcus quickly brought it back to 11, a putback by Okundaye and a steal and layup by Alden made it 43-29.

The bench, which was up from the jump, loved the hustle from Miller who forced a jump ball on defense to get the ball back and made two free throws on the ensuing possession.

Arlington ended up winning the third quarter 15-13 with the score 49-38 after three.

The Spy Ponders caught fire from deep in the fourth with four 3’s but it wouldn’t matter as Wakefield’s offense finished strong. Okundaye, who took over in the final quarter with nine points, got the first four of the frame with another putback and a fast break bucket.

Collins got the bench going again when he swished a 3 to make it 56-41 and the Warriors took home an important victory to kick off what they are hoping is a big week.

That’s because Burlington will be at the Charbonneau Field House on Friday. The Red Devils are 10-1 overall and 7-0 in league play. Burlington has big league wins over Woburn, Watertown, Melrose and Reading. Wakefield is 3-1 against common opponents. The Warriors will once again need to be ready to go from the tip-off at 7:30 p.m.

“We have the top team in our division coming to town,” said Simpson. “That should be motivation enough.”