Wakefield’s persistent press can’t top Lady Raiders

Published January 11, 2019


MELROSE—Nothing came easy for the Melrose Lady Raiders, but they were able to hold off a tough Wakefield team last Friday night in a grind-it-out, give-no-ground game, 57-32.

Both teams were incredibly hard-pressed for a bucket in the first quarter. Wakefield came out in a smothering press and man-to-man defense that never let up over the course of the game. “They were scrappy, they kept coming at you,” said Melrose head coach Bill Hirschfeld of the Warriors’ relentless style.

Melrose’s defense was equally as stifling, and after a quarter of intense defensive battle the score was only 5-2 in favor of Melrose. The size and paint presence of Wakefield senior Hannah Butler made it hard for Melrose to involve Sam Dewey all game, but especially in the first quarter.

SAM SMITH and the Lady Raider hoop team improved to 6-2  after a victory over Wakefield last week. (Donna Larsson photo)

As Melrose’s ball-handlers adjusted to Wakefield’s pressure, the Lady Raiders were able to create and convert more open looks in the second quarter, and with 4:23 left in the quarter Wakefield called timeout, down 14-2. Melrose’s offense in the second quarter was ignited by senior forward Peri MacDonald—who followed up an and-one transition layup with a beautiful euro-step to shake a Warrior defender—and senior Lily Cunningham, who canned two threes. At the end of two, Melrose had taken a commanding 21-8 lead.

“We just settled into the game more,” noted Hirschfeld. “Got comfortable with what they were doing, what we were doing, and just stepped in from there. And plus we had a little bit of I’d say holiday jetlag, so that helped out once the legs started running again and getting into it.”

Triggered by Wakefield’s switch to a box-and-one defense, Melrose got out to a bit of a sluggish start in the third, but crisp ball movement returned the team to shape, and Wakefield reverted to its man defense. “We just key into those situations…and just set it up where the individual, our strong ball-handler, will end up with the ball at all times,” said Hirschfeld of Melrose adapting to the Warriors’ various looks on D. “And then from there, we jump into our offense.”

Shortly into the quarter, Sam Dewey tallied her third personal, but she managed to stay out of foul trouble the rest of the game and play deep into the fourth. In the half-court, Wakefield just didn’t have enough perimeter shooting to get much going, and they trailed 38-18 going into the fourth.

By that point, Melrose’s lead was too staggering for the Warriors to stage any kind of meaningful comeback, and Melrose remained disciplined and executed well to close out the contest in dominant fashion.

They hope to capitalize on that win when they travel to Burlington on Friday at 5:15.