Warriors face Witches tonight in Div. 2 North quarterfinal game
Published in the March 7, 2016 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
SALEM — The Salem High boys’ basketball team is not very big but beating the Witches will be a tall order for the Warriors.
Wakefield takes on the top-ranked Salem team tonight in a Div. 2 North quarterfinal game. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Salem High School.
Wakefield (13-6) was seeded ninth in Div. 2 North and the Warriors edged Beverly by a 58-57 in overtime last Tuesday night in the first round.
Meanwhile, Salem is the number one ranked team in the sectional with an 18-2 record. The Witches routed 16th-ranked Chelsea by an 88-49 score in a first round game last Thursday night.
“Salem is the number one seed and they’re one of the top-ranked teams in Eastern Mass.,” said Coach Brad Simpson. “Their two losses are to Lowell which is ranked number one in Eastern Mass., I believe. They also had two exemption games against Everett, another top-ranked team.”
In fact, Lowell and Everett will face each other in a Div. 1 North semifinal matchup on Wednesday night.
The Witches ride their five starters for most of the 32 minutes and the five Salem players are very good players.
“They like to run and gun, press and trap,” said Simpson. “They may give up a few easy baskets but they get four, five, six of them themselves.”
Salem is led by senior point guard Alex Sanchez. Sanchez, like many point guards, controls the offense for the Witches. He has speed and quickness. He can shoot the three-point shot. Also he can penetrate and kick the ball back out to the perimeter for one of his teammates to launch one from beyond the arc.
“He is dangerous off the dribble and we feel that he is the catalyst for them,” said Simpson.
Sophomore guard Ricky Arias may just be the best if not one of the best three-point shooters for Salem.
“He likes to camp out in the corners,” said Simpson.
Senior Joel Nunez, a six-footer, is also one of Salem’s best shooters from three-point land. Nunez is also a very good defender and he is very active with Salem’s traps. He gets a lot of tipped passes and steals. According to Simpson, he also rebounds well.
Kelvin Perpetuo, who stands at 5-10, has point guard skills and was the point guard for the Witches last year when Wakefield played them in a holiday tournament in Malden.
“He has point guard skills and he can shoot the three,” said Simpson. “He’s interested in penetrating and creating offense by scoring a layup or kicking the ball out the perimeter.”
The fifth starter, Jhonel Roberts, is Salem’s biggest player at 6-2.
“He is very athletic and strong,” said Simpson. “He rebounds well and can knock down the three. We think he is a streak shooter but when he’s on, he’s as good as there is.”
The rest of the Salem roster includes senior Michael Kazadi, senior William Pimentel, senior Cam Fraser, sophomore Vinnie Gaskins, junior Danny Nguyen, junior Reimond Reyes, sophomore Aljenis Vlaun, junior Tajarah Vassel, junior Anthony Pena and junior Derek Marquis.
The team is coached by Tom Doyle and he is assisted by Tim Stirk, Mike Fecteau and freshman coach Anthony Silvio.
The Witches play in the Northeastern Conference Small division and were the league champs with a perfect 16-0 record. They played some of the teams that Wakefield has played as well. Salem beat Marblehead twice (61-38 and 70-53) and both Danvers (69-63) and Beverly (76-60) from the NEC Large division.
“Salem is not a big team, but they are quick and athletic,” said Simpson. “They don’t have a lot of size, so they don’t match up well in a half-court game. They extend the court and get into the passing lanes. They’ve very successful at it. We saw them last year and only Sanchez came off the bench. The rest were all starters. So they’re a pretty veteran team.”
Senior guard Corey Imbriano and senior forward led the way against Beverly in Wakefield’s first round tournament win. The Warriors also got good efforts by senior center Andrew Auld, junior forward Kobey Nadeau and junior guard Alex McKenna.
“The key to our game will be to protect the ball, limiting our turnovers,” said Simpson. “We also need to rebound well defensively. Salem likes to shoot a lot of threes. They send three to four players to the boards and they get a lot of offensive rebounds for second and third chances. That translates into more shots. They look to score on layups in transition and by shooting threes.”
This quarterfinal game will be like last year when Wakefield faced top-ranked Danvers in a first round game after beating Lynn Classical in a preliminary round contest. That Danvers team went undefeated last winter and captured the Div. 2 state title.
“At the time it was a tough loss. But seeing what Danvers achieved softened the loss later on,” said Simpson. “Beating Salem will be an order but they have been beat. We have a game plan that we think that will give us a chance to beat them. But we need to execute that game plan.”
The winner of tonight’s quarterfinal contest will play Brighton in a semifinal game on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Wilmington High School.