Underclassmen shine despite 47-44 loss
Published February 5, 2021
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—The Middlesex Freedom League has proven to be a very competitive one in girls basketball this season, and that was evident when Melrose High faced Wilmington in a series of two games last week and fell shy in their last one, a 47-44 road loss that amounted to Melrose’s best effort of the year. Down a few upperclassmen (including two starters) Melrose relied on their younger sophomore class to keep up with a high scoring, senior-heavy Wildcat team.
Melrose senior captain Sofia Centrella and sophomore Chloe Gentile led the Red Raiders in scoring. Gentile scored a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Centrella led overall with 11 points, courtesy of some cool-handed jump shots and successful foul line appearances. Centrella provided the seasoned experience on the floor in the starting five that included senior captain Meghan Fogarty (4 pts) sophomore Chloe Gentile, sophomore Sofia Smith (3 pts), and sophomore Gia Vlajkovic (4 pts). Those sophomores combined for 21 points for Melrose over the day.
Sophomore Meghan Casey and senior Kira Mate also came up key in the game. The two, reliable three-point shooters nailed treys to help fuel an exciting, fourth quarter that saw Melrose battle back from deficits of 31-23 to nearly tie it up 45-44 with just seconds to go.
Still, none of these Red Raiders had any answer for Wilmington’s Kylie Ducharme, who had a career night with 29 points, 27 rebounds, five blocks and four steals. The Bentley-commit was as good as advertised on all areas of the game. While tall Melrose players such as Gia Vlajkovic and Chloe Gentile had some success in the paint against her, Ducharme was simply textbook from start to finish. But it’s all the more impressive that Melrose came back, thanks to a tough defense that helped keep Melrose within range, down just 11-9 and 15-13 early in the game.
Melrose opened the game by chipping away at an early Wildcat lead, behind baskets from Centrella, Sofia Smith, Chloe Gentile and Gia Vlajkovic. Melrose sent Ducharme to the foul line early and often and paid the price, as Wilmington pulled ahead 13-9. But Chloe Gentile would find an open Ella Brennan for a basket and Vlajkovic went 2-2 on the line which narrowed the game 15-13 early in the second. A tough Meghan Fogarty and Sofia Centrella kept Melrose within 8 as halftime approached. Centrella went 4-4 at the line in the quarter and Gentile got Wilmington’s attention by scoring back-to-back for Melrose with a hook shot and layup to keep them in the game 27-23 at halftime, proving to their rivals that Melrose wasn’t going anywhere.
Wilmington opened the second half with a Ducharme steal and layup. But Melrose responded as sophomore Meghan Casey hit a trey that kept the Red Raiders hanging in there, 31-26. Gentile came up big for Melrose in the quarter, with numerous rebounds and a layup that drew a foul. Dominant low in the paint, Gentile scored again, which kept Melrose in striking distance, before Gentile connected with Sofia Centrella, whose basket made it a 37-33 game.
Centrella was on fire in the fourth, drawing a foul on a clean layup and going 1-1 on the line. Melrose was down just 41-40 with less than a minute to go. Wilmington’s Jenna Sweeney hit a shot that made it a 45-41 game before Melrose’s Kira Maté came off the bench for a signature three that had the bench on their feet and Melrose down just 1 point, 45-44, with 20 seconds to go. With all the marbles on the table, Wilmington’s Jessica Collins hit a basket to keep Wilmington up. Another attempt at a Melrose three fell flat at the buzzer and the Red Raiders left the court with a 47-44 loss. No doubt, the Wildcats left just happy to have escaped with a “W”. Next up the Red Raiders will start a two-game series against Burlington. They begin on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Burlington High at 5:00 p.m. and then at home at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. Fans can enjoy the broadcasts at tinyurl.com/melroselive.