Melrose hopes to knock off Burlington at top of league

Published in the January 19, 2018 edition


MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider basketball team improved to 5-3 with a win over Wakefield at home on Friday night, 45-38. Melrose enjoyed some well-rounded scoring but proved defensive minded against the Warriors, and once again kept their opponent under 45 points for the third straight game. 

Melrose defense forced ten turnovers in the first half and Melrose led the rebound game with Red Raider Frantz Pierrot (game high 13 points) grabbing 12 of them over the night. 

According to coach Mike Kasprzak, Melrose defense rose to the occasion. “I’m happy we limited the amount of points on the board. I’ve been pleased with our last two efforts, keeping our opponents low. This is a team who bounces back and every effort is a true team effort.”

THE MELROSE Red Raider basketball team are flying high after a convincing 45-38 win over Wakefield. (Donna Larsson photo)

Melrose got off to a quick start when Chris Cusolito shot from the foul like for 2-0 lead. Melrose’s Joe Stanton hit a basket and Pierrot went to the foul line just as the game was suspended for 20 minutes while a Melrose fan was treated by emergency personnel and fans ushered into the Marcoux gym.

“That was a scary moment, tough to witness and we are just glad he is okay,” says the Melrose coach, whose team gathered days later to deliver get well cards to the senior gentleman, who recovered in a local hospital.

When the game resumed, Melrose took a 13-7 lead behind the work of Cusolito, whose steal resulted in a layup and Joe Stanton, who sank a trey. Wakefield’s Joseph Carmilia-Smith matched that three pointer and Melrose held a 13-10 lead at the close of the first. 

The Red Raiders had a productive second quarter, outscoring the Warriors 19-7, led by Luka Vlajkovich, who had six points in the quarter, Frantz Pierrot with four points, and Stanton, who dropped another three pointer. Melrose took leads of 19-12, 22-14 and 32-17 going into halftime.

Wakefield came alive in the third, and Melrose found themselves stalled in a sluggish quarter, victim to a host of three pointers by Ryan Marcus, Mike O’Keefe and Pat Hannigan, who trimmed Melrose’s lead to 38-30. Melrose’s offense in the quarter came from Dylan Vienot and Luka Vlajkovich.  

Melrose refocused in the fourth, despite Brian Marcus’s three pointer for the Warriors to start the quarter. Cusolito found Pierrot for a layup, and Vienot earned Melrose’s 45 point of the game while Red Raider defense clamped down on the Warriors, limiting them to just 8 points in the quarter, all of them coming on the foul line.

While Kazprzak was happy to take he win, he hopes the team can remain consistent in all four quarters. “We lost a little focus after the half,” he said. “We knew Wakefield would go on a run, and as long as we don’t allow more than one, we were okay.” 

The coach credited the performances of his seniors Frantz Pierrot and Dylan Vienot. “Dylan rarely comes off the floor, he is strong power forward for us and I think he is on the verge. And Frantz has been our strongest rebounder who makes a big difference in games.”

Over the next few games, Melrose has some stiff competition, including rival Burlington and an always-formidable Belmont team. 

First up: a date with league-leading Burlington. Melrose has a chance to tie things up with them on the top of the league when they travel this Friday at 7:00 p.m. to take on the the Red Devils, who boast standout Mariano Rodriguez. 

“Our schedule is tough, it’s always tough in this league,” says Kasprzak. “If we keep holding teams under 40 or so points, and continue to take care of the ball, limit turnovers, we will do well.”

Middlesex Freedom Standings

               League Overall 

Burlington 5-2      6-3 

Melrose     4-3      5-3 

Watertown 3-3      5-4 

Wakefield  2-3      3-3 

Stoneham 1-6      1-6 

Wilmington 0-6     0-6