Published February 26, 2020


THE WARRIORS line up before a Div. 2 North playoff game in Gloucester. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

GLOUCESTER — For much of Monday night’s Gloucester vs. Wakefield Div. 2 North first round boys’ basketball matchup, the difference between the two teams was anything but apparent.

Gloucester hit 11 3-pointers and Wakefield 10 in a matchup featuring a total of eight ties and eight lead changes.

The Fishermen got 26 points and 14 rebounds from Marcus Montagnino, 21 points from Byron Thomas and 20 from Zach Oliver. The Warriors got 17 points from Ryan Marcus, 15 from Chris Alden, 14 from Brett Okundaye and 11 from Quinn Bayers.

On paper, the biggest difference came from the free throw line where the Fishermen were lights out hitting 28-of-30 while Wakefield shot 10-of-18.

The foul effect was much greater than free points. Marcus picked up his third with six minutes left in the second quarter and Wakefield up 33-23. The Fishermen closed the half on a 21-11 run to tie it up at the break.

Okundaye fouled out with five minutes left in the game when Gloucester was up 66-60.

The Fishermen went on a 14-2 run to end it.

“We can’t play without Ryan and Brett on the floor,” said head coach Brad Simpson after the game.

Those 3’s and lead changes largely told the story of an even first half.

PAT COLLINS drives to the hoop right before getting an and-one early in the second quarter against Gloucester on Monday night. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Wakefield came out firing in the first quarter, connecting on a season-high seven 3-pointers to take a 27-21 lead after one. Alden led the way with three 3’s, Marcus had two 3’s and seven points, Bayers had two 3’s and Wakefield’s fan base had it sounding more like the Charbonneau Field House than the Smith.

“It was a great effort, I’m very proud of our kids,” said Simpson. “I wanted them to come out focused – I thought they were laser-focused to start the game. Everybody, Chris Alden knocking them down, everybody. Pat Collins, you don’t notice it in the box score but he did everything he could.”

Collins started the second quarter with an and-one and later another free throw to give the Warriors a 31-23 lead and a bucket in transition from Okundaye stretched the advantage to 10. Gloucester attacked the rim and got six of their next eight points from the line to get right back into it at 37-31. That’s when Thomas stepped up and drilled two clutch 3’s on back-to-back possession to tie it again, getting the Fishermen student section back on steady ground.

A mean crossover and layup from Okundaye took the lead back but Montagnino returned the favor with an and-one. The senior, who was 16-of-17 from the line, calmly connected from the stripe and took back the lead.

“Marcus Montagnino,” said Simpson. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s a college player.”

Collins continued to battle with Gloucester’s big man, drawing a charge late in the second. Alden made it count on the next possession with a corner 3 to tie it at 42. Two more free throws from Montagnino and another layup from Okundaye brought the game into the break at 44-44.

Gloucester won the third quarter 16-12. Six free throws and two 3’s provided the bulk of the Fishermen scoring in the frame. After Wakefield’s 3-point outburst in the first quarter they only connected on three the rest of the game while Gloucester hit nine during that same stretch including five in the fourth which all but sealed it.

“We worked all season to get here and it’s tough to swallow a loss like this,” said Marcus.

RYAN MARCUS soars in for two of his 17 points against Gloucester. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

“It was a very disappointing way to end the season,” agreed Simpson. “But I told the kids, my experience over the years is when you qualify for the tournament you have to enjoy it for what it’s worth because unless you end up state champion, everybody ends the season with a loss.

“Six teams in Div. 2 North lost tonight. In a few more nights, four more will lose. So what you want to do is go out with a bang and tonight I really feel like we did that – we just got into foul trouble, they made some shots and we couldn’t stop (Montagnino). I think that was the story of the game.”

Even while Thomas and Oliver were connecting on backbreaking shots and pulling away in the final quarter, the Wakefield bench stayed into it, showing their support to a special group of seniors: Marcus, Bayers, Collins, Chris Miller and Lucas Smith.

So, when Smith entered the game and hit a 3 in the waning seconds, much to the delight of the Red Sea, it wasn’t a meaningless shot to anyone on the Warrior bench. There, during what is usually hands over the face time, were the other four seniors, putting their grief for the outcome on the back-burner and instead choosing to stand and applaud, not only for their good friend (who has done the same for them all season), but for years of dedication and hard work well spent.

“Although it wasn’t the outcome we all wanted, I think we showed how resilient our team is,” said Marcus. “Even though our high school careers are over, it’s fair to say us seniors are proud of everything we’ve worked for. Most of the credit is due to our coaches, who helped us get better everyday and get to this point.”

The 2020 five’s selflessness and attitudes at once made it ok and even harder to bear. Yet, at the end of the day, “proud of everything” is absolutely right.