Published in the January 22, 2019 edition.


BURLINGTON — Trust us when we tell you Friday night hoop doubleheaders in the Middlesex League should be here to stay.

From 1994 to 2012, having both girls’ and boys’ varsity teams play doubleheaders at the same site was a tradition. For the next six seasons it was back-and-forth. Some years with the two varsity teams playing in opposite sites, some back to the doubleheaders.

This year, Tuesdays split up the boys and girls’ varsity games while Fridays are doubleheaders. In many ways, it seems perfect. So long as Friday nights continue to feature games like this.

This past Friday, the Wakefield High girls’ and boys’ basketball teams traveled to Burlington, each facing the task of earning a win on the road against a quality program.

Defense rules the day as girls win 40-32

Wakefield head coach Jason Pavey and assistant coach Beth Simpson returned to the BHS sideline looking to beat their former team (Simpson was the head coach, Pavey the assistant during the mid-2000’s). It was a big game for each team, both starting the night with a 3-5 league record and looking to separate themselves from the middle tier of the Freedom Division.

The Warriors had a difficult first few minutes, getting headaches from the Burlington press that forced plenty of turnovers.

How Wakefield responded to close the first quarter felt like a microcosm of their season so far. Aside from captains Hannah Butler and Jaime Greatorex, the Warriors are inexperienced and still ironing our their offensive execution.

Luckily, that’s not what determines a winner.

Wakefield matched Burlington’s press with even more intensity on a press of their own, holding the home team to just three points in the first quarter.

“Our kids play really hard,” said Pavey. “The offensive stuff, some of it is inexperience, some of it is we’re still developing those skills, but these kids just play hard every single night and that’s what defense is. It’s grit, it’s heart and I just had a feeling today that when we met in the classroom and got on the bus that they were dialed in.”

Freshman Sophie Brown helped jump the Warriors in the first with a strong finish in the lane off a nice dish from Winnie Mylan and later getting to free throw line.

Butler helped the offense in the second quarter by picking up two big offensive rebounds, one for a quick putback to make it 13-3 then later for an and-one to make it 16-5.

Freshman Maeve Gaffney continued the second chances with a putback of her own and following more strong defensive work from the likes of Greatorex, Ashlee Purcell, Butler, Brown, Mylan, well, ok the whole team, the Warriors took a 21-9 lead into the break.

Burlington made it clear from the start of the third that they weren’t ready to concede quite yet. The Red Devils found a few easy buckets in transition and Wakefield’s offense began to stall, until Greatorex took over, scoring 10 of her team-high 11 points in the third quarter to maintain a lead that was under attack.

After slicing through Burlington’s zone for two, Greatorex hit two 3’s, eventually giving Wakefield a 31-18 lead.

“Jaime was huge in the third quarter because we had a little dip there to start and they went on a run but luckily for us she hit back-to-back 3’s,” said Pavey of Greatorex. “It was just a senior captain stepping up when we needed her.”

The points from Greatorex ended up being vital in the quarter as the Red Devils went on a 7-0 run to end the third, making it 31-25 to start the fourth.

Wakefield reset in the fourth and got through a hectic time thanks again to their dedication towards battling on each defensive possession. Every Burlington bucket was earned in the final frame with the Warriors holding them to just seven fourth-quarter points.

There were plenty of fouls called on both sides and many trips to the line. With the physicality picking up and Wakefield clinging to a 36-31 lead, Gaffney picked up a big bucket through contact in the lane with the shot clock winding down.

The Warriors followed that clutch two by continuing to show Burlington different looks on the defensive end, switching to a zone the Red Devils couldn’t figure out.

With the score 38-32 and 1:31 left, Wakefield got a big steal and Brown finished up her 10-point game by sealing it with a clutch bucket to make it 40-32, the final score.

It marked the official halfway point of the season, and moved the Warriors up to third place in the Freedom, one game back of Wilmington who Wakefield lost to by just one point on Dec. 21.

“It’s a huge win,” said Pavey. “Now we’re looking to have a really strong second half of the season. The kids are excited, this was a big game for them confidence-wise. The freshmen did some great things tonight, they kind of grew up a bit.”

The Warriors travel to Matignon tonight before heading to Watertown on Friday night.

Boys zone out noise for 55-42 win

The boys’ team entered Friday night with a two-game lead on Melrose and Burlington for first in the Freedom Division.

The Warriors, thanks to a dominant 13-3 second quarter, rode a 17-point halftime lead to a nice road win.

“That was a good win,” said Wakefield head coach Brad Simpson. “As the old saying goes, Burlington ‘lived by the 3 and died by the 3’. We felt like we didn’t have the quickness they had to play man-to-man so we played zone and they couldn’t buy a 3-pointer in the first half so we were able to get out to a lead.”

Billy O’Keefe got a bucket off a missed free throw and followed that up on the next possession by finding Aidan Cusack on a weak side cut off a pass from the right elbow to give the Warriors a 9-3 lead. Wakefield had a 15-8 lead after one.

The Warriors maintained a tough 3-2 zone into the second, their length disrupting Burlington shooters enough and their rebounding strong on both ends, no easy task while playing a zone.

Billy O’Keefe (13 pts, 13 reb), Cusack (7 pts, 10 reb) and Ryan Marcus (5 pos, 9 reb) were all terrific on the glass.

Wakefield’s offense stalled in the third as Burlington won the quarter 13-7.

Burlington came out firing in the fourth, hitting two 3’s and cutting the lead to a tense 37-30 with plenty of time left. Billy O’Keefe hit a clutch corner 3 to push the lead back to 10 and Michael O’Keefe initiated the Patrick Hannigan show in the fourth with a great pass to a cutting Hannigan who found enough space to parallel park behind the Burlington zone all half. Hannigan scored 13 of his team-high 19 in the second half.

“Pat Hannigan was getting behind the zone,” said Simpson. “We took Burlington out of that zone twice because they kept losing Pat. To the credit of Michael O’Keefe, Aidan (Cusack) and Ryan (Marcus), they were finding him, but he was finishing.”

“And then of course the 3’s; those are daggers. You see that maybe in the NBA. It was just coldblooded.”

Hannigan hit two 3’s within a minute of each other to put this one on ice. The first hit almost every part of the hoop, rolled around and in to make it 50-37. The next didn’t need as much Irish luck as it fell straight through. “Coldblooded” was the perfect description, as the Warriors picked up their third win in a row to close out the first half of the season.

“I don’t think it was one of our best games but good teams have got to find a way to win and we did,” said Simpson.

With that, Wakefield boosted their divisional lead over Burlington to three games, and maintained a two-game lead over Melrose who beat Wilmington on Friday night.

The boys’ Sunday game against Chelsea was postponed so they’ll get a week to prepare for another road game against a hungry Watertown team this Friday.

With the second half of the season officially starting Friday night, the doubleheaders will get another added twist, as the boys will now play the early 5:15 games and the girls will play the 7 p.m. games.

But really, who cares what time they play? So long as we keep playing two on Friday nights.