Warrior face a very familiar foe again in the Div. 2 North Tournament
Published in the March 7, 2017 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WOBURN — If the members of the Wakefield Memorial High girls’ basketball team have feelings of deja vu, then one can understand why given the order of the state tournament opponents for the Warriors.
The Warriors will be facing another familiar opponent when they take on Hamilton-Wenham in a Div. 2 North semifinal game which is scheduled to be played tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Woburn High School.
Wakefield (17-4) is seeded second and defeated Tewksbury in its quarterfinal game. The Generals, meanwhile, are ranked sixth and are riding high after a 46-43 upset win over third-seeded Watertown in the quarterfinal round.
Hamilton-Wenham entered the state tournament with a 12-8 record and has won two postseason games in row. Prior to the Watertown victory, the Generals defeated 11th-seeded Swampscott by a 45-32 score in the first round.
Hamilton-Wenham is no stranger to the Warriors since Wakefield defeated the Generals in their own tournament, the General Patton Tournament by a 55-46 score on Feb. 21. In fact, the Warriors defeated both Tewksbury and Hamilton-Wenham in that showcase to end the regular season.
“We’re facing two teams that we just played and we’re facing them in the same order which is even crazier,” said coach Meg O’Connell. “What are the odds?”
Wakefield is quite familiar with the Generals and will try to use that to its advantage tomorrow night. Of course the Warriors know that beating Hamilton-Wenham won’t be easy.
“Hamiton-Wenham is a tough team. They play good defense and that really helped disrupt what Watertown wanted to do on Saturday night,” said O’Connell. “They have good shooters that can knock down the three. We need to play great defense ourselves and work on moving the ball and taking high percentage shots.”
The Generals have played two tournament games already while Wakefield has played just the one after having drawn a first round bye. Getting that initial win under its belt should help Wakefield given the fact that most of the Warriors weren’t on the roster two years ago when Wakefield posted its last tourney win, which was against Triton at home.
The 53-43 win over Tewksbury gave Wakefield a chance to get over any state tournament jitters and it gave the Warriors the chance to experience the atmosphere in the state tournament before a big crowd. Of course being at the Charbonneau Field House probably helped, too.
“The crowd was huge and loud on Friday night,” said O’Connell. “I couldn’t hear anything. That’s the way we like it. It was nice to get a win in the state tournament and gain the experience.”
Even though the Warriors will be playing at neutral site, Woburn High is close by and O’Connell expects to see the same support tomorrow night.
“The Wakefield kids show great support so I’m sure they’ll come out. It will be a great atmosphere,” said O’Connell.
The Warriors may have already beat the Generals once, but O’Connell knows that the state tournament is different and that beating Hamilton-Wenham two weeks ago will mean nothing tomorrow. Wakefield will have to earn the victory the old fashion way by earning it.
“We need to come out ready to ready to play. They had one girl injured when we played them, but she was back against Watertown,” said O’Connell. “We know they’re going to put pressure with full court pressure and we need to be ready to handle that.”
Cecily Szady scored 23 points in the Swampscott victory for the Generals while Liz Kirschner had 13 points in that contest. Senior guard Kelly Walsh and junior guards Lauren Flynn and Cate Blatchford also are several of the Generals’ top players.
Blatchford scored 12 points in the Wakefield game on Feb. 21 and Kirschner had nine points.
“They don’t have a traditional center, but they have good height and they can all shoot. We need to contest their shots,” said O’Connell. “I thought Friday was one of our best games of the season in all areas. We got a 10 point lead. Every time Tewksbury made a run at us, we came back and made a big shot. We showed our toughness.”
The Warriors are going to need another effort like that tomorrow night if they hope to advance to the Div. 2 North final.
“We need to execute. It won’t be easy. This is the semifinals, it’s not supposed to be easy,” said O’Connell. “That’s why they it’s called March Madness.”
The winner of tomorrow night’s semifinal game will advance to the North final and will square off against tonight’s semifinal winner between Belmont and Arlington Catholic.