Victory over Wakefield sends Melrose to 1st tourney in 3 years

Published in the February 12, 2016 edition

THE MHS Lady Raider basketball team is playoff bound after a victory over Wakefield on Saturday. (Donna Larsson photo) 

THE MHS Lady Raider basketball team is playoff bound after a victory over Wakefield on Saturday. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE — The Melrose Lady Raider basketball team punched its ticket to its first post season run since 2012-13 after a thrilling 53-45 win over Wakefield at Charbonneau Field House in Wakefield on Sunday, Feb. 7. Melrose was led by junior Cat Torpey who had 14 total points (including going 9-12 at the line) helping lead Melrose to their 10th win of the season and their fourth straight victory. Now on an official hot streak, Melrose (10-7) will finish the regular season with three games to go, looking to earn home court privileges in the D2 North playoffs.

It is the first tournament berth for Melrose head coach Lindsay Shanahan, who took over for Robert Ferrante in 2013. After the game, the coach credited her team for the hard fought win. “Everyone played well, but Cat hit some really clutch free throws. She went 9-12 from the free throw line and when it came down to the final minutes of the game, we wanted the ball in her hands. Ultimately, Leonora Ivers sent the momentum forward for us with a huge shot and then a turn around 3 point conversion play late in the third quarter.”

It is a significant return to a post season by a team who made habit of it a decade ago. “The Lady Raiders haven’t been in the playoffs since 2012 and it feels great to get back there. When I accepted the position as head coach, my one goal was to get the team back to where it once was and, slowly but surely, these girls are doing that.”

Shanahan credits the role her captains have maintained this season. “Without the leadership of my captains, I don’t know if we would be back. These captains have been great role models and show that determination, motivation and hard work really pay off. Julia Foley, Aly Bornstein, Olivia Smith and Sarah Foote are the epitome of hard work and have set strong examples for their teammates of what it means to come to practice and work hard.”

That was evident on Sunday when Melrose outshot the Warriors in the opening moments of the game, taking a 12-9 lead at the end of the first. Melrose outscored Wakefield 15-12 in the second behind the scoring of Torpey, Ali Borenstein (8 pts),  Leonora Ivers (7 pts), Caroline Nolan (7 pts) and Sarah Foote (6 pts) which helped give Melrose a lead of 27-21 at the half. Once again, Melrose’s offense has been a balanced contribution this season, something the coach noted. “Offensively, Alexis Doherty and Aly Bornstein have been standouts in recent games, putting up double digits. Alexis has been averaging 15 points a game and is leading the team in 3 pointers. Aly Bornstein is a phenomenal guard that takes the ball to the basket and always finishes strong. She knows how to find the holes in the lane and always takes off down the court for a quick outlet.”

Melrose’s defense was amped up over the Warriors, limiting Wakefield to just six points in the third. “Defensively, Sarah Foote has been a force down low shutting down the lane and grabbing rebound after rebound. She has been coming up with huge blocks,” says Shanahan. “Lily Cunningham is one of our strongest defenders – she has a tough job out there – usually guarding the fastest guard. She anticipates the ball well and reads the play oftentimes coming up with quick steals.”

By the fourth quarter Wakefield came back with a spirited effort, tallying their most offense of the night. The Warriors cut the lead to as close as three with under a minute to go in the final stanza behind the shooting of Olivia Dziadyk (16 points) and Grace Hurley. But Melrose’s Cat Torpey closed the door on Wakefield with a fine performance at the foul line, sinking two foul shots to make it a final 53-45 victory.

Overall, Melrose has reconfigured strategies to success in the second half of the season, says their coach. “The girls are communicating well both on and off the court. Their confidence has contributed to their heightened level of play. Although I have always believed they could compete with the best teams out there, they are now seeing and feeling a new level of success, believing in themselves, which is translating out on the court. Specifically, they are working well offensively, scoring over 50 points a game. Defensively, we have worked hard to throw in new defenses – working on allowing us to switch up our defensive strategy in transition.”

Riding a four game winning streak, Melrose is peaking at the right time. “We’ve picked up a lot of momentum in the second half of the season,” says the coach. “We still have four games left and we want to win them all. A home court advantage would be huge.”

No matter how the next three games play out, Melrose is playoff ready and have their eye on the prize. “This has been a hugely rewarding season. The girls have come so far and are now aware of how talented they are, and they are having fun and enjoying themselves.”

Remaining regular season schedule

Fri. 2/12 5 p.m. vs. Stoneham (Senior Night)

Fri. 2/19 5 p.m. vs. Tewksbury

Mon. 2/22 5 p.m.  vs. Weston