Barn-burner ends in 60-51 loss to Arlington
Published March 1, 2019
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider hoop team saw their playoff run end in the opening round of the Div. 2 North tournament when they fell to Arlington on Tuesday, 60-51, during a raucous battle at Arlington High gym.
Melrose was facing a Spy Ponder team who was 58-2 at home in their last 60 games.
The Red Raiders end their season at 10-9 while Arlington moves on with the task of having to get past an incredibly tough Belmont (19-1) team this week.
Melrose coach Mike Kasprzak spoke of their effort after the game. “Turnovers. That’s the story of the game. But I loved our effort. We came to play. We got into the tournament playing a brutal schedule, as usual. Arlington was 58-2 at home. To come in here and play as hard as we could in a pretty close game makes me proud.”
The Red Raiders were led in scoring by freshman Holden Symonds with 17 points and senior Luka Vlajkovic with 14. It was a tough defensive battle for most of the contest, with Melrose holding several leads until a free-wheeling fourth period when both teams scored a combined 36 points, but the Spy Ponders tiptoed away behind three-pointers from Myles Hess and the tough presence of Jhalani Joshua under the hoop. Leading in scoring for the Spy Ponders was sophomore Brendan McNamara with a whopping 28 points.
Melrose showed strength in the opening minutes, taking an 8-4 lead on a Holden Symonds trey and were down 14-10 after Jhalani Joshua hit three shots in a row at the end of the first.
Melrose played a strong second quarter with a tremendous defensive effort. The Red Raiders took a 16-14 lead on a pair of back-to-back treys from senior captain Jay Tucci and frosh Holden Symonds, before Marino Preziosa drew a foul and helped them take a 22-21 lead. A Tucci basket gave Melrose a brief lead of 24-24 until Arlington’s McNamara closed the stanza with foul shots that lifted them 25-24, which set the tone for the rest of the night.
“There was a bit of a mental breakdown and at times our body language wasn’t good,” said the coach. “I’m not sure we seized the moment, or felt a sense of urgency.”
The Red Raiders had a fairly sloppy start to the second half and found themselves in deficits of 28-24 and 31-26. Melrose’s Brandon McSorley nailed a three that tied it up 31-31 while Vlajkovic and Symonds held the fort on the foul line to keep Melrose in the game, 34-34. But a pair of threes by Arlington’s McNamara and Hess proved tough to make up for in points, effectively taking Melrose out of the game.
“This was a springboard, building year and they showed a lot of heart,” said Kasprzak after the game. “That said, next season, we don’t want to cruise along. We need to wake up and play hard on the off season.”
Melrose says goodbye to four seniors this season: capt. Jay Tucci, Harry Kelley, Luke Pashoian and Marino Preziosa.
Their coach saluted them. “Our seniors all played well tonight and also did on Senior Night, too. What more can I ask for? They hung in and I’m proud of them. And I’m proud of how this team played tonight.”