Published January 18, 2019


MELROSE—In a good way, it was a bizarre game for the Melrose boys’ basketball team, which found its footing once again by taking care of Burlington last Friday, 69-51. The contest featured a number of improbable shots from the Red Raiders, including three buzzer-beaters and a three-pointer from Marino Preziosa that careened off the back of the rim and shot up past the backboard, then fell in.

With the win, Melrose improves to 5-3 overall. 

“It’s a step in the right direction, we had guys step up…we played opportunistic, we made some things happen instead of just laying back on our heels,” said Melrose head coach Mike Kasprzak after the win.

Neither team gained a clear advantage in the first half, but Melrose showed some encouraging signs. For one, its guards seemed much more confident taking open looks from three, with Marino Preziosa and Jay Tucci each making two apiece in the first quarter alone. Tucci’s second three of the quarter came from the left corner off an inbounds pass as time expired.

“We’re just telling guys, ‘You have to shoot the ball.’ The way we’re designed, you have to step in and shoot it,” said Kasprzak of his guards being more confident.

HARRY KELLEY goes for the net for the Melrose Red Raider hoop team, who prevailed over Burlington last week. (Steve Karampalas photo)

Secondly, Luka Vlajkovic established himself early, scoring fifteen points by the half. With seconds left in the third quarter, Marino Preziosa heaved up a half-courter, missing narrowly, but Vlajkovic came up with the rebound at the foul line and threw it in right as the buzzer sounded.

In the third, Holden Symonds bounced back to score 8 points, after a difficult first half that saw him get smothered by Burlington’s defense in the paint and commit a few turnovers. Melrose switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half to force Burlington into missing shots from deep. With 3:14 to go in the quarter, Burlington called timeout, down 51-38.

“I thought the first half we just weren’t getting hands up on shooters,” said Jay Tucci of the team’s third quarter turnaround. “Once we get those stops going, that’s kind of when our offense picks up and that’s when we’re at our best, so that’s how our third quarter run came.”

Burlington guard Alex Wong was a tough cover all game, scoring fifteen on the night and keeping the Red Devils in it late, but Jay Tucci and Luke Pashoian did an admirable job checking him. The Red Devils came out of the timeout pressing more aggressively, but Melrose handled it well and was up 57-40 going into the fourth, after Tucci raced down the floor and split the Burlington D for a layup off the glass—his second buzzer-beater of the night.

“It’s so great to see a good kid get rewarded for playing well. Working hard in practice, he’s a great leader…he’s a great kid, he’s a great captain for us. Our other guys play well, but Jay, just as a senior captain—he’s been in the program since middle school camp and he’s hung in there–and he was everywhere tonight,” said Kasprzak of Tucci’s performance.

From there, the lead was too great for Burlington, whose defense got lazy in the fourth and gave up too many easy opportunities for Melrose. Vlajkovic and Symonds settled into a groove from mid-range as Melrose slowed down the pace. Alex Wong never let up, hassling Marino Preziosa in the backcourt throughout the final quarter of play, but his efforts couldn’t do enough, and Melrose cruised to its first win in two games.

Tonight Melrose travels to Wilmington to take on the 1-7 Wildcats at 7:00 p.m. at Wilmington High.