CAM LIPPIE had 17 points in Melrose’s most recent win over Wilmington. (Jennifer Gentile photo)
Biggest comeback of the season in 60-57 win
By JENNIFER GENTILE
WILMINGTON—The Melrose Red Raider basketball team has come into their own as they enter 2022 based on back-to-back wins over Belmont and Wilmington last week. While Melrose’s Jan. 4 win over Belmont by a score of 74-68 represented Melrose’s best offense performance of the season, their Jan. 6 come-from-behind victory over the Wilmington Wildcats showcased a multi-faceted offense and great defense that flipped a 5 point deficit with 17 seconds left into a 60-57 win.
For Melrose, those seventeen seconds may have felt like seventeen years. But their ability to throw three pointers and keep cool head on the foul line has paid in dividends this year and it was no exception against Wilmington, particularly in the last minute of play.
In that minute, the Red Raiders forced a turnover and put tons of pressure on Wilmington that led to a Max Kirby (8 pts) three pointer that brought the game within 2 points with 8 seconds left. After adding pressure and creating a trap against Wilmington, Melrose saw Sage Jones pick off a Wildcat and connect with Zac Federico who scored twice, including drawing a foul on a layup for an and-one that put Melrose up by three to steal victory.
In the game, Melrose was led in scoring by Zac Federico with 21 points and Cam Lippie at 17. In this game, this duo helped keep Melrose firing on all cylinders. Says head coach Dan Burns, “These two can do so much in both the inside and outside, which is what we are looking for right now.” But it was a total team effort overall and Burns also pointed out the work of Sage Jones and Owen Dewey (11 pts). “Owen has been playing awesome and doing a lot of the little things right. And Sage has played exceptional in a role we’re asking him to take, so we’re really appreciative.”
While at press time, Melrose took a road loss to Reading on Tuesday evening, it was Melrose’s workman-like effort against a skilled Wilmington team that best represents the Red Raiders potential this season. Picking up a win on the road comes with its own challenges and so far, many of Melrose’s games have been away. Says coach Burns, “We’ve played 8 games and 2 have been at home, but in our first few games there has also been a tournament level of energy in the gyms we play in. We’re definitely holding our own and in each game that we play in. So, while I think we can play with anyone, for us to win it’s important that we play a full 32 minutes.”
The coach notes that the team has certainly seen its share of dropped leads, so a come-from-behind effort displays a better energy that they’d like to embrace as they approach mid-season. “Finding a way to win is a lot better than finding a way to lose,” he says.
Melrose has some equitable competition on the docket: Lynnfield on Wednesday at home (post deadline) and Stoneham on the road at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Melrose would love to win a few to round out at 5-5 on the season. There are no nights off in the Middlesex League, notes Burns. “We’ve faced some tough Liberty division competition and the Freedom League has been tough too, but if we play from start to finish we’ll earn wins.”