Playoffs likely for boy’s hoop after 56-52 Watertown win
Published in the February 12, 2016 edition
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—It’s been a down-to-the-wire effort for the Melrose Red Raider basketball team to secure a playoff spot in the Div. 2 North Tournament, but after a 56-52 road win over Watertown on Tuesday night, that job got easier. The 9-8 Red Raiders (7-7 league) maintain a steady lock on second place in the Middlesex Freedom League, and under MIAA rules, a second place finish in a league is an automatic qualifier for playoffs. At press time, Melrose is sitting in a good place in the league (see standings below).
Remaining on the schedule are two non league games against Lynnfield and Chelsea next week and a league finale against Stoneham this Friday night at home. Melrose had previous success against both Stoneham and Chelsea this season. Even a loss against Stoneham should secure Melrose’s grip on second place in the M.L. Freedom behind Wakefield.
Melrose’s road to tournament had taken a detour on Sunday afternoon when Melrose fell in overtime 72-69 to Wakefield in a rescheduled Freedom League match up at Charbonneau Field House. With the win, Wakefield clinched the Middlesex Freedom League outright. Both Melrose and Wakefield played toe-to-toe in front of a jam-packed Wakefield crowd. The Raiders were led offensively by Sean Prendergast with 16 points and Julian Nyland (12 points) and Avery Davis (15 points) while the Warriors saw a strong game from senior Tighe Beck. Melrose traded leads with the Warriors in first quarter with Wakefield holding on to 15-13 edge at the end of the first. Wakefield extended that lead in the second quarter for a 39-32 lead into the halftime break. Melrose, however, had a big third quarter behind the efforts of Avery Davis, and Nyland while their defense limited Wakefield to just seven points in the quarter. Melrose held on to a three-point lead at 49-46 as the fourth quarter began and extended that lead to 62-54. However, a pair of three pointers by Wakefield’s Zach Price closed the gap to tie the game 62-62 and force overtime.
It was a strong start in overtime for Melrose. Red Raider Sean Donovan gave Melrose a five-point lead at the opening with back-to-back baskets, but Wakefield found success on the foul line, keeping the game within three while Melrose fouled out a few of their players. The finale came courtesy of Wakefield’s John Evangelista, who hit a three and tied it 67-67 and Kobey Nadeau, whose 3-4 foul line shots sealed the deal in overtime.
However, on Tuesday night Melrose bounced back with a clutch win on the road in Watertown with their narrow 56-52 win against their rival Raiders. Melrose’s Julian Nyland led the game with 19 points while Sean Prendergast sealed the deal in the final seconds of the game at the foul line. It was a balanced offensive effort with Melrose’s T’mahri Mercer adding 9 points, and Sean Prendergast posting 8, while Melrose’s defensive fought hard to prevent a Watertown comeback. It was a gripping finale, as both teams were locked in a tie with 25 seconds left when Avery Davis hit a jumper to put Melrose up 54-52. Melrose then got a stop and Sean Prendergast got the rebound and was fouled. He made both ends of a one and one to put the game away.
Melrose will look to finish the ML Freedom on a high note when they host Stoneham on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Melrose Middle School gym. By next week, the Raiders should be a seed for the MIAA playoffs. Stay tuned.
Friday 2/12 7:00 p.m v. Stoneham
Mon 02/15 5:30 pm vs Lynnfield
Thu 02/18 5:00 pm @ Chelsea
Middlesex Freedom Standings
TEAM LEAGUE ALL
Wakefield 12-5 11-4
Melrose 9-8 7-7
Stoneham 6-9 3-9
Watertown 4-10 3-10
Burlington 3-12 5-12
Wilmington 0-12 0-12