Published in the January 28, 2020 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WILMINGTON — The Wakefield High boys’ basketball team was certainly happy about improving to 8-5 overall and 5-4 in Middlesex League play late in the fourth quarter during Friday’s 63-38 win in Wilmington.

But generally happy and unconsciously exhilarated are two different things.

The Warrior bench was the latter after senior Lucas Smith nailed a 3 to account for Wakefield’s final points.

A former team manager, Smith’s dedication to the program earned him a jersey this year.

“He’s a great teammate, the kids love him,” said Wakefield head coach Brad Simpson. “Whenever he gets the ball in practice, we’re always yelling to the first team ‘shooter!’ because that’s one thing he can do with the best of them.”

So it was that Lucas “Shooter” Smith got the loudest bucket of the season, and that’s even coming just 48 hours after Chris Alden hit a 3 with one second left to lift the Warriors over Revere on Wednesday night.

Alden (13 points) was still hot from that shot on Friday night. The junior hit two 3’s in the first quarter to provide the bulk of the offense against a surprisingly stingy Wildcat defense. Wakefield led 13-9 after one. The Warriors led 26-15 at halftime, getting a big boost from big man Paul Holman who scored all six of his points in the second quarter.

It was largely Holman’s hustle along with a loud block by senior Chris Miller that woke up the Warriors. Wakefield was up 22-15 at the time of Miller’s block. To Wilmington’s credit, a team who entered the game on a five-game losing streak, they were playing hard and hitting some shots.

“I thought Wilmington played great,” said Simpson. “They challenged us to make the 3-point shot in the first half and we weren’t making it. They can hang around with anybody.”

Wakefield’s defense clamped down to end the half. Wilmington’s last field goal of the second quarter came with about four minutes left.

Wakefield upped the tempo in the third quarter, scoring 19 points to take a commanding 45-29 lead into the fourth.

Wakefield’s leading scorer Brett Okundaye was held to one point in the first half. He had 16 in the second half for a team-high 17.

Okundaye scored the first six points of the third, first on a putback, then on a couple of layups as a result of some excellent passing.

Captain Ryan Marcus did enough scoring with 11 to keep the defense honest, but he was really focused on getting his teammates involved. His passing from the free throw line extended in the second half helped bust a Wilmington zone that was really tough in the first half.

“Ryan Marcus is a tremendous facilitator,” said Simpson. “He does well when he gets the ball in that zone in the middle. I don’t know how many assists he had but he would have had a bucket more if some people just put the ball in the basket. He really showed tonight, he’s not just a good shooter or scorer. He’s a basketball player.”

The Warriors got out on the run much more often in the second half. Marcus found Okundaye with a no-look pass to make it 35-19 and after Alden scored in transition, Okundaye got another one on the run and Marcus found fellow captain Quinn Bayers (10 points) on a breakout to push the lead to 41-22. Bayers later found Okundaye for another quick layup and Wakefield proved once again that once the pace is to their preference, they are nearly impossible to slow down.

“There was a little attrition in the third and late in the fourth when we got some transition baskets that (Wilmington) didn’t get back on,” said Simpson.

Attrition was the perfect word to describe it as the Warriors gradually reduced the strength of Wilmington through a sustained attack.

The best possession of the night was the first of the fourth when all five players touched the ball as it zipped around the court. Bayers had the final dish to Okundaye down low who made it 47-31 and all but settled this one.

Tonight, Wakefield will look to win their third straight for the first time since the beginning of the season. The Warriors started 3-0. After a loss and a win against Revere and Swampscott, they lost two in a row to Melrose and Lexington, won two in a row against Stoneham and Arlington, lost the next two to Burlington and Watertown and are now back on a two-game winning streak.

Woburn comes to town tonight. The Tanners (9-5/5-5) have won three in a row with victories over Arlington (58-29), Reading (52-50) and Concord-Carlisle (74-66).

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.