KYLEIGH FLANNIGAN was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field as she scored 8 points against Melrose on Friday night. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the February 12, 2019 edition.


MELROSE — If the Wakefield girls’ basketball team’s objective during their rivalry bout against Melrose on Friday night was to get Warrior fans excited about the future, consider it a success.

The Red Raiders (13-3), who had already clinched the Freedom Division and look like a good candidate to make a run in the Div. 2 North Tournament, were buzzing after a Senior Night ceremony.

But Wakefield, following the lead of senior captains Hannah Butler and Jaime Greatorex who, along with Caroline Capistran, will be honored during Wakefield’s own Senior Night on Thursday, stood their ground and gave Melrose all they could handle.

“I thought it was one of our best efforts of  the entire season,” said Wakefield head coach Jason Pavey. “We were undermanned with both of our starting guards out (Winnie Mylan and Briana Lotti) and we needed some kids to step up.”

Once again, it was Wakefield’s defense that kept them in the game from start to finish. At times, Wakefield was switching from zone to man possession by possession as they continually altered the home team’s rhythm and forced plenty of turnovers.

“Our kids were very focused on executing our defensive game plan of giving Melrose multiple looks and I thought overall, they did a great job.”

The Warriors’ best defensive quarter came in the first when they held the Red Raiders to just eight points.

Wakefield’s only points came off a Greatorex free throw, a layup from freshman Ashlee Purcell off an inbounds pass and a mid range jumper from junior Kyleigh Flannigan who was just getting started. Flannigan would end up with 8 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.

“Kyleigh Flannigan was very important for us, especially on the offensive end,” said Pavey.

With the score 8-5 Melrose heading into the second quarter, both teams found a little more pace after a scoring drought to start the quarter although the physicality between the two rivals ramped up. The Warriors got plenty of good looks set up often by Greatorex and freshman Sophie Brown who took turns running the point.

The Warrior misses opened up a chance for Melrose to go down low to sophomore Sam Dewey (17 points) who scored two easy buckets in the post to eventually stretch the lead to 14-5. Although Wakefield proved to be resilient, that forced them to fight just to stay in the game going into halftime.

“Against a team like Melrose, your margin for error is pretty slim,” said Pavey. “Looking back, we didn’t convert on some higher percentage shots, especially early on in the game. Some of those go through and who knows how things end up.”

Greatorex set the tone in fighting back. She got one of her ten rebounds off her own miss, fighting to keep the possession alive and eventually going to the line where she made it 15-7. Wakefield got a nice boost off the bench from junior Julia Castellano who scooped up five rebounds in the second quarter alone as she fought hard against Dewey on the block.

Purcell had a nice crossover and bounce pass to Flannigan for two to make it 15-9. Flannigan converted again on the next possession, this time off a pass from Greatorex to make it 15-11 and although Melrose closed the quarter strong, Wakefield was back in it, trailing 19-13 at halftime.

The third was pretty even with Melrose eventually getting the edge 13-10 to take a 32-23 lead into the fourth. Both teams rattled possessions with solid zone defense. Hannah Butler had a nice pass from the elbow to Flannigan in the post to make it 22-17. Purcell got an easy two after a steal and Brown’s bucket after a fearless drive made it 27-21.

The Warriors were making a habit of responding just when it appeared the Red Raiders would run away.

Sophomore Clara Butler (8 points) stole the show late in the third and early in the fourth. Butler was ready to make a play the minute she stepped on the floor, always sure to show a triple threat when she received the rock. Though typically with a pass-first mentality during her limited minutes this year, Butler helped the team by taking and making big shots. She hit a long two late in the third, then in the fourth she hit a deep 3 to make it 35-26 Melrose. After another bucket in the post for Dewey, Butler found herself open again from a similar spot on the left wing. Although a couple steps behind the line, one couldn’t help but wonder why she was open as she was “Claraly” (sorry) in the zone.

“I was really happy for Clara Butler,” said Pavey. “She came in and hit a couple huge 3’s to really give us a boost. She was a great example of someone who was ready to step in when her number was called.”

Freshman Maeve Gaffney scored four of her five points in the fourth quarter and although Melrose was finally breaking through on the offensive end on their way to an 18-17 advantage in the frame, the Warriors kept fighting to the very end.

The mentality of this team, as it does with any good program, revolves around winning. But Wakefield’s refusal to back down from a great team especially without two starters is a great sign for the future.

“Despite the loss, that was a good night for Wakefield basketball,” said Pavey. “A lot of our kids, especially Clara Butler, Maeve Gaffney, Kyleigh Flannigan, Sophie Brown and Ashlee Purcell, fought hard against a team with a ton of experience. I’m hoping we can build off of this and have the momentum carry over to tomorrow night in Stoneham.”

Wakefield’s Tuesday night game in Stoneham was postponed to tomorrow night. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m.

Senior Night will be on Thursday against Burlington. The girls are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. after the boys’ game.