Published December 12, 2018


WAKEFIELD — Tuesday was opening night for Middlesex League hoops at the Charbonneau Field House as the Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ varsity team hosted Reading. The game saw an up-tempo pace hold throughout, as the Warriors, led by 15 points from senior Billy O’Keefe, were able to hold off the Rockets, taking the win 55-47.

“That’s a good, athletic, physical Reading team,” head coach Brad Simpson said, after the game.

The first quarter was a bit stop-and-start as four out of the first five possessions saw trips to the free-throw line. The Warriors had trouble slowing down Reading’s senior forward Danny Bekkenhuis, who led the Rockets with 14 points including six in the first quarter.

Neither team had an advantage after the first quarter, as the two teams scored 15 points each. They traded baskets to start the second quarter until the Warriors broke away, scoring six straight points, capped off by Billy O’Keefe’s first of three 3-pointers in the game. The Warriors outscored Reading 12-9 in the second quarter and took a 27-24 lead into the locker room for halftime.

MICHAEL O’KEEFE looks for room to operate. The junior scored 11 points and logged plenty of minutes for the Warriors during their first win of the 2018-19 season. (Donna Larsson Photo)

“Billy is tough to deal with because he can stretch the floor, go out and shoot the 3, and also be hard to handle around the basket,” Simpson said of his senior forward.

Reading opened the second half on a 6-3 run, to turn a three-point deficit into a three-point lead. However, a steal and a breakaway bucket for junior Quinn Bayers sparked an 11-2 run for the Warriors. Wakefield was able to outscore the Rockets 16-13 in the third quarter, doubling their halftime lead to six points with the score 43-37 heading into the fourth quarter.

The final frame got going with a Ryan Marcus 3-point play, as he slashed to the hoop for a basket, plus the foul. Marcus was second on the team in scoring with 12 points, and the Warriors’ junior captain played strong defense throughout, coming up with some key stops down the stretch.

After the 3-point play by Marcus, the Rockets went on a 4-0 run, but O’Keefe’s third 3-point ball of the night quelled any momentum the visitors might be building.

“In the huddle, the kids talked about picking things up and picking their teammates up, and I thought they did that effectively,” coach Simpson said of his team’s ability to hold onto the lead in the fourth quarter.

RYAN MARCUS flies to the rim over a Reading defender during Wakefield’s season-opening win last night. The junior captain scored 12 points for Wakefield. (Donna Larsson Photo)

“We like to run, so we turned the ball over in the second half looking to run,” the coach said. “So hopefully we’ll become a little more game savvy as the season goes on, because if they run and turn it over, it could come back to bite them.”

As the time ticked by, the teams continued to run on the fast-break and attack the basket. Wakefield junior Michael O’Keefe sealed the win with a breakaway layup to put the Warriors up 10 with less than a minute remaining. Reading got the final bucket, but the victory was Wakefield’s as they move to 1-0 on the season. Michael O’Keefe was third on the team with 11 points and played nearly the entire game with stalwart defense throughout.

“Ryan Marcus and Michael O’Keefe are great two-way players,” Simpson said of his junior backcourt duo.

Getting the win is the way any team wants to start, and for Simpson, there is no better way to open up his 32nd season at the helm.

“We had seven guys in the scoring column tonight,” the had coach said following his first win of the season. “I hope as the season goes along we have seven and eight guys scoring consistently.”

“I feel we can go eight or nine deep and really not miss a beat,” Simpson said, highlighting some of the effective minutes put in by the substitutes. “Pat Collins, Pat Hannigan, Brian McGunigle, I thought they all gave us quality minutes when they were out there.”

Coach Simpson will need everyone to contribute in the next outing as the Warriors host old friend Steve Harrington and the reigning Div. 3 state champion Watertown Raiders on Friday. Wakefield will still be without senior forward Jack Matuszewski, who is scheduled to return from injury after Christmas. The boys will take the floor shortly after the girls’ 5:30 p.m. game concludes Friday night at the Charbonneau Field House. Tip-off for the boys’ game is set for 7 p.m.