Travel to Medfield for Sweet 16 tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.


WAKEFIELD — The reason Wakefield’s girls’ basketball captains described Friday night’s 45-35 first round state tournament victory over Bedford as a “dream” is probably because the environment at the Charbonneau Field House felt like one. 

Wakefield’s first home state tournament game since 2018 and their first tourney victory since that same year just so happened to coincide with the first maskless game played at the field house since February of 2020. 

You can imagine the excitement then of everyone present: student athletes to coaches, friends, family and an electric Red Sea student section decked out in all black. 

The Warriors elevated that already exultant atmosphere into another stratosphere, earning a wire-to-wire victory, never trailing or tied with a familiar Buccaneer team in their rubber match as they split a non-league season series this year. 

“The Red Sea, masks off – it was just exciting,” said Wakefield head coach Jason Pavey. “We have a lot of kids who have played in the postseason in other sports. Last year we didn’t have a state tournament so I just kept telling them, ‘We fought for this home game and playing a home tournament game in basketball, there’s nothing like it.’ It was great to see a turnout like this. I was really happy the kids got to experience that.”

The dream was very much literal for Wakefield’s four captains. 

“It was really fun to see everyone here. I think it’s just been all of our dream since we were little,” said senior captain Ashlee Purcell (9 points, 3 rebounds, 5 steals). 

“It’s the best feeling in the world to finally get here and especially winning on your home court, that’s the dream,” said senior captain Hannah Hill (3 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals). 

The Warriors at once played out their dreams while also creating new ones for the next generation. As the team celebrated at center court when the final buzzer sounded, waves of future Warriors could be seen jumping for joy in the stands. It was their victory too.

“It really has been a dream of ours,” said junior captain Emma Shinney (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals). “I remember sitting in the crowd to watch the 2018 team and thinking ‘I want to be out there.’ Now that we’re out here and seeing everyone so excited when we won, it just felt really good.”

It was Shinney who got Wakefield going early with 8 of her game-high 18 points coming in the first quarter when she hit two of her four 3-pointers. 

A Purcell 3 opened the scoring and Shinney followed up by banking in a triple and later weaving coast-to-coast through traffic for a layup before another long ball and a nice find to freshman Aliza Margolis (6 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) down low ended the quarter with Wakefield up 16-9. 

The Warriors, who held their opponent to 35 points or under for the 11th time in their 21st game, wasted no time in setting the tone on the defensive end. Pavey provided Bedford with different looks from zone, to man, to full court and half court pressure. The result was Bedford falling out of a rhythm that they never truly found for the rest of the night. 

“Defensive intensity right from the start,” said Pavey. “We’re undersized every game so we just tried to give them different looks. We can really pressure the ball and we got a ton of steals in transition and then when we needed to, the defense got a few really huge stops in the 4th quarter.”

Bedford did cause some tension in the final frame, cutting the lead down to seven at one point, but Shinney hit a 3 just as Wakefield’s offense appeared to have stalled to get the crowd going once again before Purcell came up with a steal and Pavey called timeout to maintain complete control. 

“We’ve have some great games thus far but we’ve had some lapses sometimes and I think this was our first complete game and we really came together – the bench was loud, the energy was there and we brought it home,” said senior captain Sophie Brown (4 points, 6 rebounds). 

“It’s a game of runs and their two post kids (Katherine Vaughan and Marina Greaney) got going in the second half. Just a matter of settling down, sometimes when we play good defense we get a little greedy which kind of led to some foul trouble but for most of the game, I thought the kids were really composed.”

That’s no easy task as the home team in a tournament game, especially against a squad you’ve already lost to this season. The Buccaneers beat the Warriors 51-44 at the field house on Feb. 2. They were then bit by the injury bug and dropped multiple games including a 67-35 decision to Wakefield on Feb. 22. With Bedford back to full strength on Friday night, Wakefield knew that they would have a talented opponent on their home court. 

“They’re not an 18 seed,” said Pavey of Bedford. “They had injuries that caused them to fall in the rankings. They were probably a 1 or a 2 seed until they got hurt and now they had their kids back so that was a great win against a team that I think is one of the best in Division 2.”

That familiarity and Bedford’s size advantage was offset by Wakefield’s great equalizer: defense. 

“We always hustle, we’re always aggressive, that’s one of our biggest strengths,” said Brown of her team’s defense. “Sometimes playing the same team multiple times it can get repetitive and you know each other well but I think we really stood up and took charge.”

The point here might feel belabored, but Wakefield’s defensive gameplan, rotations, communication and intensity is why they’re off to meet No. 2 Medfield on Tuesday night, 6:30 p.m. at Medfield Senior High School.

The local Warriors will certainly be the underdogs against the Medfield Warriors who went 17-3 this season. 

That won’t stop them for working towards trying to accomplish their next dream. 

“It was definitely great to get past the first round but we’re not done yet,” said Purcell, echoing the “not done yet,” that’s been on the team’s whiteboard since their 10th and tournament-clinching win. 

“We just have to keep playing, keep working,” said Hill of the mentality for the next round. 

Regardless of the outcome, Wakefield knows they have succeeded in providing a memory in Wakefield sports that won’t soon be forgotten. After that 2018 team’s run to the North Sectional Finals, these current seniors joined a program that was in complete rebuild mode. They’ve fought through pandemic-related challenges and worked tirelessly to bring the Warriors back to the biggest stage in order to see their dreams come to reality. 

Said Shinney, “Going through the challenges, practices and frustrations every now and then, it’s worth every moment to have this feeling right now.”