Published in the February 24, 2020 edition.

Two Wakefield High winter sports teams have drawn Gloucester in the first round of their respective Div. 2 North tournaments. Just for simplicity’s sake, the seedings are the exact same as well.

The Wakefield boys’ basketball and hockey teams will be ranked 10th while both Gloucester teams are 7th.

Ironically enough, only one Warrior group will be playing a true road game as the hoopers will meet the Fishermen at Gloucester High tonight at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, the hockey team got a nice break as their home rink, the Stoneham Ice Arena, was selected by the MIAA to host the game tomorrow night at 6 p.m.

Basketball preview

The Warrior boys’ basketball team finished the season 12-9 overall and 9-7 in league play to tie for third in the Middlesex League’s Freedom Division. Wakefield has played well in stretches this season. They were 6-5 on Jan. 22 before a six-game winning streak clinched a spot in the postseason. The Warriors struggled in their final four games against tough competition, dropping four straight against playoff teams Winchester, Burlington, Swampscott and Reading.

The Warriors were 7-4 on the road this season. They were 7-1 until their games against Burlington, Swampscott and Reading. Wakefield’s biggest win of the season came on the road in Belmont where they handed the Marauders their first league home loss since 2017.

Wakefield is led by senior captains Ryan Marcus, Quinn Bayers and Patrick Collins. Junior Brett Okundaye has emerged as Wakefield’s leading scorer this year as he has been nearly unstoppable going to the rim and fellow junior Chris Alden provides another scoring threat from the outside.

The Warriors will have their hands full with 6’4 Marcus Montagnino, a 1,000 point-scorer and four-year varsity starter. The senior was the only returning starter for a team who made one of the longest runs in program history last year. The Fishermen and Warriors would have met in the quarterfinals last year if the Warriors had defeated Reading. Instead Gloucester beat the Rockets 58-47 and fell to Belmont in the semifinals.

This year, Gloucester has steadily received 20 points and 10 rebounds from Montagnino. Generally considered a strong defensive team, Gloucester will need a secondary scorer to step up while the Warriors will try to be balanced once again and throw multiple defenders at the big man whether it’s Collins, Marcus or senior Chris Miller. The Warriors have experience with this, shutting down Melrose center Luka Vlajkovic during a win on Jan. 31 thanks mostly to shut down defense from Miller. Montagnino is a little quicker and more perimeter-based than Vlajkovic so it will be a unique challenge.

The Fishermen are 7-4 at home. Gloucester and Wakefield only had one common opponent this year in Swampscott. Both teams went 1-1 against the Big Blue.

The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of No. 15 North Andover at No. 2 Latin Academy. North Andover was 6-13 this season while Latin Academy was 19-4. However, North Andover, who were D2N runners-up last year, plays in an always stacked Merrimack Valley Conference. If both North Andover and Wakefield can pull off upsets, the Warriors would get to host a quarterfinal matchup, most likely Friday or Saturday.

Hockey preview

The Warriors are hoping for a great crowd at the Stoneham Arena tomorrow night. Wakefield finished the regular season at 11-6-3 overall with their biggest victories coming against D1 tournament teams Woburn and Melrose.

The Fishermen finished the season 12-5-3 good for second in the Northeastern Conference. They started the season 0-3-2 but won nine of their next 10 to punch their ticket to the tourney. Gloucester enters the postseason on a three-game winning streak. The Warriors haven’t lost since Jan. 25 against Belmont.

The Fishermen have the NEC MVP in goalie Connor Vittands. The Warriors will need some traffic in front of the net to beat one of the state’s best. For that, Wakefield will rely on captains Cam Souza and Scott Elwell. Meanwhile, the Warriors have a lights out goalie themselves, with captain Luke Roberts having a terrific year. Another captain, Chris Coombs will lead the defensive effort against talented playmakers like Jeremy Abreu and E.J. Field.

The Warriors will continue to miss junior forward Matthew Moniz who had a great season before an injury ended it early. Oliver Miller, who spent most of the season as a winger to Moniz, has shifted to center with Joey O’Brien on his right side. The Warriors have any number of lineup options with a deep roster as players like Brogan Chambers and Mike Locke have stepped up in the middle of the ice recently while wingers Matt Elwell and Cal Tryder are always tough to contain.

The winner of Wakefield-Gloucester will play the winner of No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury vs. No. 15 Danvers in the quarterfinals.