40-35 Watertown win erases previous loss

Published January 31, 2020

By JENNIFER GENTILE

MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider basketball team bounced back in round two against Freedom League rival Watertown last Friday evening at Melrose Middle School gym with a 40-35 victory that improves them to 9-3 and on finds them on the cusp of clinching a spot in the postseason. The Red Raiders also remain in second place in the Freedom league with a record of 7-3.

It was a defensive gem for Melrose, who denied most scoring opportunities beyond the work of Watertown’s Elian Guerreiro who had a number of treys over the night. But it was Melrose senior captains Luka Vlajkovic and Charlie Borstel who provided the fuel on offense, both with 13 points and double-doubles that effectively took Watertown out of the game.

CHRIS CUSOLITO’S defensive efforts helped Melrose top Watertown last Friday night. (Steve Karampalas photo)

Borstel kicked things off with a three-pointer to start the game, followed by another three by Melrose’s Brandon McSorley that gave the Red Raiders a quick lead of 7-5. Watertown went to the foul line several times and made Melrose pay, hitting every shot and taking a brief lead of 11-10 at the end of the first. The teams traded ties at 13 before Vlajkovic opened things up with back-to-back baskets that drew fouls and gave Melrose a lead of 18-16. Another Borstel three put Melrose up 21-19 lead at halftime.

Vlajkovic went on a tear in the third. He hooked up with Rob Wiesen twice, and Wiesen then fed him the ball to make it a 28-22 game. Defensively, Melrose’s Brandon McSorley and Chris Cusolito helped keep Watertown limited to just 22 points as the game stretched towards the fourth. Vlajkovic once again drew a foul on a basket that gave Melrose a critical lead of 32-27 at the end of the third.

Watertown fought admirably in the fourth quarter behind the work of Julio Fulcar and Elian Guerriero. While Melrose’s Cusolito and McSorley locked down on defense, Borstel went to the foul line and hit both shops to keep Melrose up by 36-27. Watertown cut the lead down to 36-32 with 44 seconds left and then again 38-35 with 21 seconds left after a Guerreiro trey. But a huge offensive rebound by McSorley helped Melrose retain possession down the stretch in order to clinch the win 40-35.

Next up, a clash between league rival Wakefield on the road this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Melrose took round one on Jan. 3, 58-47 and hope to make it a clean sweep.

Freedom League Standings     

League           Overall 

Burlington          10-1              13-2

Melrose      6-4           9-4

Wakefield      6-4           9-5

Watertown          6-4           7-5

Wilmington         1-10              1-11

Stoneham      0-11              1-12