Symonds and Vlajkovic combine for 33 points in W

Published January 4, 2019


MELROSE—The Melrose High boys’ basketball team was able to take care of business on Thursday, Dec. 27 at Melrose High School, putting away the Lynnfield Pioneers with ease, 56-42. Melrose continues to pick up wins (despite playing without junior captain Chris Cusolito) and the Red Raiders stand now at the top of the league at 4-1.  

In an effort to pack the paint to make it difficult for towering forwards Holden Symonds and Luka Vlajkovic to score, Lynnfield came out in what appeared to be a hybrid 2-3 zone which, over the ebbs and flows of the game, at times looked more like a box-and-one or a 3-2. Nevertheless, Lynnfield struggled early to find an answer for the power duo of Symonds and Vlajkovic, and Melrose had a commanding 16-3 lead at the end of the first.

Throughout the game, Melrose guards Luke Pashoian Marino Preziosa were able to exploit mid-range soft spots in the zone and feed the ball to Symonds and Vlajkovic, who spearheaded a fluid high-low game. At various points, however, Lynnfield compressed the paint even tighter, forcing Melrose’s guards and wings to take outside shots.

Melrose head coach Mike Kasprzak spoke of beating that Pioneer defense. “It’s an old-school, pack-it-in zone…it’s a 2 on 1 on the perimeter, and we’re just telling our guys [to] just reverse it, drive and kick the ball and step into a couple shots, and we make one or two, it’s going to loosen the floor up.”

LUKA VLAJKOVIC passes off to Holden Symonds during Melrose’s 56-42 win over Lynnfield. Melrose enters the new year with a record of 4-1. (Steve Karampalas photo)

Overall, Melrose’s guards seemed rather hesitant to shoot from deep, but when Lynnfield compressed the paint extra tightly at the end of the second and for most of the third, they stepped up. Junior forward Brandon McSorley nailed three threes for the Red Raiders during that stretch. This forced the Pioneers to account for the perimeter, which in turn re-opened mid-range and post spots for Symonds and Vlajkovic.

Junior captain Luka Vlajkovic spoke of the guards stepping up and making outside shots. “It made it harder for [me and Symonds] to get open [when Lynnfield packed the paint]…When kids on our team started hitting shots like Brandon McSorley and Marino, it helped [me and Holden Symonds].”

The Red Raiders’ slow, deliberate pace on offense controlled the clock and wore out the Pioneers, who failed to generate many quality offensive possessions. “I like how we play slow and everybody touches the rock and we all get involved. That helps us stay more inclined on D,” noted senior guard Marino Preziosa.

The Lynnfield offense centered around the playmaking of sophomore Jack Ford, who notched 11 points on the night. Back-to-back buckets by Ford in the third cut the Red Raiders’ lead to single digits before Coach Kasprzak called timeout. The Red Raiders were able to regroup and close out the third up, 37-25.

In the fourth, Lynnfield eased up and Melrose returned to feeding Vlajkovic and Symonds, forcing the desperate Pioneers to begin full-court pressing with 6:10 remaining. Preziosa and Pashoian handled it well, advancing the ball up the floor with sound decision-making. Preziosa chipped in 7 points in the fourth to help seal the deal for the Red Raiders, who emptied their bench with about thirty seconds remaining.

It seemed like an all-around dominant win, but Coach Kasprzak isn’t satisfied. “We have so much to work on. I thought we were sloppy…[We got] really kind of satisfied instead of putting our foot to the pedal…We have to be aggressive stepping into the shots instead of holding onto it for two or three swings, and then they’re packing it in even more because the perimeter guys won’t shoot the ball.”

Added Preziosa: “I think we just need to get better at handling the pressure. We need to get better at showing up, and we need to get better at playing right from the jump and playing a full thirty-two.” 

Now at 4-1, Melrose will look to carry some momentum into its game tonight at perennial arch-rival Wakefield (3-3). Tip off is at 7:00 p.m. at the Charbonneau Field House in Wakefield.

Freedom League Standings

                League      Overall 

Melrose         3-1      4-1 

Burlington      3-1      4-2 

Wakefield      3-2       3-3 

Watertown     1-3      1-3 

Stoneham      0-4      1-4 

Wilmington     0-4      0-4