SENIOR CO-CAPTAIN Andrew Miller (3) initiates the offense while the Red Sea looks on. Miller finished with 17 points, including four triples in Wakefield’s season opener against Winchester on Friday night at the Charbonneau Field House. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the December 18, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The 2017-18 boys’ varsity hoop season tipped off on Friday night as the Wakefield Memorial High School Warriors hosted the Winchester High Sachems at Charbonneau Field House.

Things were a bit off, as the crowd arrived later than usual because earlier in the day a student had reported to administration that they had overheard a bomb threat on the game.

A heavy police presence slowed entry for spectators as all precautions were taken for safety, and the police remained in attendance throughout the game.

The reports turned out to be unfounded and unsubstantiated by any other evidence, however no chances with safety were taken, and thankfully everything went as usual.

The Warriors entered their first game hoping to start the season off with a win, but they faced a strong, experienced Sachems squad. A slow beginning to the game doomed their fate. The Sachems snatched the win from the Warriors in their home opener by a 72-65 final score.

“It was kind of what I expected,” Warriors’ head coach Brad Simpson said following the game. “Winchester is probably one of the top teams in the whole league. They have four starters back; those kids are battle-tested from last year.”

“To open the game and to open the second half, the Winchester kids asserted themselves,” Simpson said. “I would say tonight they were definitely seven points better than us.”

Wakefield managed to knock down just two field goals and four free-throws leading to 8 points in the first quarter, while Winchester went for 17 points on six field goals including a 3-pointer from Patrick Grassey.

The Warriors struggled to find their shot, as the new batch of Warriors felt each other out in the 1st quarter. Turnovers plagued their possessions as passes were uncertain, and off the ball cuts were neither hard nor purposeful.

All that would change as the Warriors offense woke up in the 2nd quarter to the tune of 24 points on nine made baskets including four three-pointers.

Senior captain Andrew Miller led the 2nd quarter scoring outburst with 11 points and three three-pointers, helping his team to a 32-29 halftime lead.

Wakefield fell behind in the 3rd quarter as the Sachems cranked up the defense and got aggressive on offense, as they got to the line for nine free-throw attempts, making seven out of nine in the 3rd quarter. After being outscored 20-13, Wakefield trailed 49-45 heading into the 4th and final quarter.

Wakefield fought hard in the 4th quarter, as the Warriors put 20 points up on the board. Andrew Miller had six of his 17 points in the final quarter, including going 4/4 from the free-throw line. The Warriors also displayed some accurate long-range shooting as they got three-pointers from Billy O’Keefe, Max Hinchey, and Ryan Marcus.

Marcus, a sophomore, had five of his game high 23 points in the 4th quarter. However, the Warriors shot just 5/10 from the free throw line and Marcus missed three free throws, including the front-end of a 1-and-1 as the Sachems separated themselves at the stripe, shooting 9/10 in the 4th quarter.

“Ryan Marcus didn’t get much time last year, so I’m very pleased with him,” added coach Simpson.

Joe McCarron led the way for Winchester with 19 points on 9/9 from the line. Mario DiBennedetto had eight of his 15 points in the 4th quarter to help the Sachems top the Warriors.

“Andrew and Joe (Carmilia-Smith) did a very, very good job on Fitzpatrick and DiBennedetto, I’m proud of their effort tonight,” the coach said.

He acknowledged the missed opportunities for the Warriors saying, “Down the stretch when you’re down and you miss two front ends of a 1-and-1, that’s four points, it would make it a one possession game instead of a three possession game.”

That didn’t damper the coach’s outlook for the rest of the season saying, “I think we have a higher ceiling. I think that’s about as good as you’re going to see them [Winchester].”

“I think we’re going to be a good free throw shooting team and a good defensive team. I told the kids that with practice and more time we’ll improve. They’re already pretty good, so to play with Winchester for four quarters, you see a silver lining,” said Simpson.

Wakefield will have a few practices to fine-tune their offense before stepping back out on the court, as their next game comes on Tuesday with their first road trip of the season, just over the line in Reading to take on the Rockets at 6 p.m.