ETHAN MARGOLIS scored a career-high 25 points and added 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 10 steals in a road victory over Wilmington on Tuesday. (Brian Cusack Photo)
By TYM BROWN
WILMINGTON — The Wakefield High boys’ basketball is off to one of the best starts in school history with a 12-1 record just past the midway point in the season. Along with this impeccable record, the team held a 10-game winning streak after Jan. 31 with an average win margin of 12.2 points in that stretch. The Warriors, who haven’t lost since Dec. 20, continued to play strong with a 61-45 win over Wilmington on Tuesday.
Senior captain Ethan Margolis said that the team has, “really connected as a defense,” since the start of the year, also saying, “the transition offense has gotten a lot better.”
The star Warrior point guard led the way in this win with a career-high 25 points and 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 10 steals.
Margolis opened up the game with a steal and breakaway layup to get the scoring started as well as a second steal on the next possession. Wakefield brought a flawlessly ran full-court press for the duration of the game causing 12 Wilmington turnovers in just the first quarter, including a 10-second violation which was the first the Warriors had forced all year.
The Wildcats were playing incredible defense in transition, making it tough to get good looks. Eventually, the away squad found their way through the thick of it as Margolis grabbed a pass that went offline from Wilmington and powered his way through to the basket for the bucket with a foul.
After the successful and-one, De’Ari Burton (13 pts, 3 reb, 6 stl) got himself on the scoreboard by ripping away the inbound pass after the free throw and finishing through a foul. After Burton converted his three-point play, the Warriors were up 10-5 and looked to start to pull away. Wilmington fought back defensively, though, only allowing two free throws for the last three and a half minutes of the 1st quarter. Mike Oatis of the Wildcats closed out the scoring with a coast-to-coast score to bring his team within three points of the Warriors at the end of the quarter.
Oatis put in a quick basket to start in the 2nd quarter that got the home crowd excited to see that the momentum was shifting. Margolis was quick to squander this hope with an acrobatic up-fake and reverse finish that engaged the Wakefield bench. The senior guard went on to score six straight points off of three consecutive Wilmington turnovers.
Now down seven, the Wildcats needed a response and got one from Oatis once again with a floater off glass. Tiago Gomez, a junior forward for Wilmington, drained a 3-point shot on the next possession to cut the Wakefield lead down to two halfway through the 2nd quarter.
Margolis was once again there with a response, downing two physical layups to keep his team flowing on the offensive end. The Warriors never quit as a team defensively, forcing another 10-second violation. There was now visible frustration for the Wildcats, it seemed like every time they were on the edge of a breakthrough, they were also on the brink of collapse.
Senior captain Mike Wilkinson (8 pts, 8 reb, 3 stl) took advantage of this with a fly-by layup, followed by a Jackson McDermott 3-pointer. This deep ball was the Warriors’ first and came with 1:13 left in the 2nd quarter. Jack Millward closed out the scoring for the half with a putback shot to give Wakefield a 29-20 lead.
Margolis picked up in the 3rd where he left off in the first half as he dropped in another pair of points off the backboard to put his team up by double digits for the first time in the game. De’Ari Burton then stole another inbound pass and hit a deep mid-range shot to push the lead to 13 points.
Both teams went stale offensively for two minutes, the silence finally being broken by a perimeter shot from Declan O’Callahan. The Warriors continued to pour in points without much contest in the 3rd quarter, forcing turnovers constantly and turning them into a transition score almost every time.
It was the classic trio of Margolis, Wilkinson and Burton attacking and feasting off of these open layups that Wilmington was allowing. Margolis had another amazing finish with a spinning touch that extended the lead to 20 points.
The home team struggled to find traction again, only being able to cut the lead down to 16 points by the end of the 3rd quarter.
Wakefield took control of the game once again in the 4th, not allowing any ground to be made up on their enormous lead. A couple of highlights of the quarter would be a corner 3 from Matt Beaver (7 pts, 3 reb) and a tough layup by Burton to get himself into double-digit scoring once again. Burton hit one more shot to seal the final score of 61-45.
The Wakefield defense was an unapologetically brutal force against Wilmington, forcing 31 turnovers with 24 of them being steals. Ten of those steals were collected by Margolis who had a career night in a number of ways to notch his third double-double in the last four games. The senior captain was unaware of this accomplishment.
“I didn’t even know that, wow,” said Margolis. “I’m not even going for stats, it just happens. If I can help my team succeed, that’s all I’m looking to do.”
The Warriors followed up this victory with a season-sweep of rival Melrose at home on Friday night, coming away with a 59-42 win. Wakefield moved to 13-1 with that win, their 11th in a row. A full story will appear later this week.
The Warriors host Stoneham tomorrow night at 7 p.m. and travel to Burlington this Friday night, also at 7 p.m.