Published in the January 29, 2021 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Red Sea would have loved this one. 

The Wakefield High boys’ basketball team dug deep and found their own energy in an empty Charbonneau Field House on Wednesday night through four quarters, two overtimes, 16 lead changes and 175 total points to pull out an 89-86 victory over Burlington thanks in large part to senior Brett Okundaye’s 42-point game.

Don’t let the shortened season or folded up bleachers fool you. This one was an instant classic, and one of the most exciting wins in Warrior hoop history.

“This was a huge win for us,” said Wakefield’s interim head coach Bryan Sweeney. “Burlington won the league last year, so going in we knew they were going to be very good. They can shoot the 3 and they are very well coached.”

The Red Devils hit an incredible 15 3-pointers. They connected on nine in the first half alone to take a 39-35 lead into the break. Their biggest and deepest one came with five seconds left in regulation to tie it at 73 and force overtime. Wakefield locked down on Burlington’s many sharpshooters from there, allowing no 3’s in the first OT and just one in the second. 

Okundaye scored 10 of his 42 over the last five minutes of regulation, the best being a tough and-one off a euro step to turn a one-point deficit into a 69-67 lead after he hit the free throw. He somehow found the energy to continuously attack the glass and hit his free throws late in the game, something he would have to keep doing after Burlington forced OT. 

Sophomore Ethan Margolis stepped up when the Warriors needed him most in the second half, scoring nine of his 21 in the 3rd quarter as Wakefield reclaimed the lead at 56-54. 

Margolis (6) and Okundaye (7) combined for 13 of Wakefield’s 16 post-regulation points. The shorthanded Warriors needed all of their combined 63 throughout the game.

“We had Jeff DiFazio hurt going into the game and Andrew Quinn got hurt during the game, so we really needed someone to step up,” said Sweeney. “Obviously, Brett had a huge game but Ethan really stepped up for us as well. We needed someone else to score, and he got aggressive and started driving the ball to the basket. Ethan is only a sophomore, so to get that type of scoring out of him in this game was a bonus for us.”

Burlington’s only OT 3 came at the start of the second overtime to take an 82-79 lead. Margolis got a bucket in the paint and Okundaye followed up a steal with a finger roll for an 83-82 lead. Okundaye later found Danny Hurley under the hoop to reclaim the lead again at 85-84 as the two teams continued to trade buckets, leads and punches in a never-ending slugfest.

Another Okundaye steal and easy 2 on the break with a minute left gave the Warriors the lead for good as the defense strung together multiple stops to close it thanks in large part to the work of senior captains Paul Holman (10 pts.), Chris Alden and Zach Atoui along with Okundaye, Hurley and Margolis. 

It was a wild game in every sense of the word. The Burlington bench was especially upset about the free throw disparity. Wakefield took 35 free throws while the Red Devils only took one. That was largely a result of the style of play, with the Warriors seeking out contact in the paint. Just 12 of Wakefield’s 89 came from beyond the arc. More than half of Burlington’s points came from 3 and the ones that didn’t were mostly open layups off well-timed drop-off passes. Ironically enough, Burlington’s only free throw attempt came on a four-point play. Burlington was also the only side who needed to foul intentionally to get back into the game, something that happened both in the 4th quarter and double overtime. The bottom line being, you’d be hard-pressed to find a handful of bad calls or non-calls in this one.

It was just a uniquely entertaining game, one that Wakefield is preparing for again in the rematch tomorrow, 9 a.m. at Burlington High. 

“The win means a lot for us, but we have to play them again Saturday and it is going to be really difficult to beat such a good team twice,” said Sweeney. “We don’t want to get too high or too low with the win, because Saturday’s game is going to be another battle.”