Instant Classic: Warriors edged by 13-1 Belmont, 66-65

Feb 1, 2019 by

Host Wilmington tonight

Published February 1, 2019


WAKEFIELD—On Tuesday at the Charbonneau Field House, the Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ varsity basketball team hosted Middlesex League Liberty Division front runners, Belmont. The Marauders came in with a perfect 12-1 overall record and a perfect 10-0 league record, but the Warriors were not intimidated, and gave one of the most spirited efforts of the season so far.

The Warriors got off to a slow start, as they fell behind 4-0 to open things up, but then Aidan Cusack would get things rolling for the hometown team. The senior big man for the Warriors had seven of his team high 17 points in the first quarter. Ryan Marcus had six in the first quarter, and the Warriors got four points from Michael O’Keefe and a 3-pointer from Billy O’Keefe, as the Warriors held a 20-18 lead after the first quarter.

AIDAN CUSACK stepped up for the Warriors against Belmont with a team-high 17 points. Nobody gave Wakefield much of a chance against the Marauders who were 10-0 in league play, but the captain scored 10 points in the second half to help the Warriors hang with the visitors down to the last shot. (Donna Larsson Photo)

The 3’s started to drop at the start of the second quarter as Brian McGunigle and Quinn Bayers connected on shots from distance, while the Warriors looked to hold off the Marauders’ charge.

Belmont captain Danny Yardemian was tough to stop all night, as he led all scorers with 27 points, including 17 in the first half.

The game couldn’t have been any closer, with Belmont heading into the halftime break ahead by one point at 39-38.

In the third quarter, the visitors increased their lead and gave themselves some breathing room heading into the fourth quarter as they outscored the Warriors 22-16, despite six more points from Cusack.

Belmont’s 3-point shooting in the third quarter is what set them apart from the Warriors, as they sank six shots from beyond the arc. Belmont forward, Mac Annus had three of his four 3’s in the 3rd quarter.

Trailing 61-54 heading into the final quarter, the Warriors felt they had a chance to spoil perfection for Belmont. The Warriors cranked up the defensive intensity and shutdown the Belmont offense, holding them to just four points in the final quarter. Belmont was feeling the pressure, as they had chances to seal the game at the free throw line, but shot just 2-for-7 from the stripe in the fourth quarter, leaving the door open for the Warriors.

Junior big man Jack Matuszewski showed why he’s such a valuable piece off the bench for Brad Simpson’s team in the fourth quarter, as he caused problems on the boards for Belmont, extending a couple of possessions with offensive rebounds and getting into the scoresheet with a put-back of his own.

With time running low, Wakefield’s Billy O’Keefe stepped to the line and put the Warriors up one with two clutch free-throws. Belmont came down and scored to reclaim the lead. With 39 seconds to play, the Warriors had the ball and looked to sink Belmont at the last second, but Ryan Marcus was called for a charging foul, turning the ball back over to Belmont.

QUINN BAYERS sets up for a 3 against Belmont. The junior point guard led a strong defensive effort from the Warriors against the league’s highest scoring team. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Wakefield quickly fouled and got a gift when the two free throws clanged out and Billy O’Keefe secured the rebound. Hustling the ball into their half of the floor, Wakefield called timeout.

The Warriors needed a basket, trailing by just a point. They had it all set up, possession in their own half, with 4.9 seconds to go. After a pair of coaching timeouts to strategize the final play, the game was set to be decided. As the Warriors inbounded the ball out top beyond the three-point line, the Belmont defense over-played the weak side, denying an entry pass to the low post, as the defense closed in on Marcus, he passed the ball off to a teammate, but before a shot could get hoisted towards the basket, the buzzer sounded ending the game in dramatic fashion 65-64 to Belmont.

“We had a chance to win, we only needed two points to win, they jammed up Billy on the baseline from what I could tell. We were trying to get the ball inside to score or get fouled,” head coach Brad Simpson said following the game.

“That was a tough one,” he added. “I mean it was a great game, the kids played well. I’m very disappointed for the kids. I know they were very much looking forward to playing a team like this in this gym.”

Coach Simpson saw plenty of good from his players saying, “Ryan Marcus never came out of the game. The key was Quinn Bayers’ defense in the second half on Yardemian. Aidan (Cusack) had 10 points in the 2nd half, Billy (O’Keefe) had two big free throws, and some big defensive rebounds to give us possession.”

Simpson was especially impressed with Quinn Bayers on the defensive end. “That’s not a mistake,” Simpson said, “It was a great defensive effort, Quinn was superb.”

Looking back on the matchup, Simpson said, “Belmont is a great high school team, and we went toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose with them. Now we need to pick up a win or two; we have to put this game in the rear-view mirror.”

Following the loss to the Marauders, the Warriors had to come up with a win over their next opponent, Chelsea, in a non-league game.

“It becomes important for the tournament and for seeding purposes that we get a win,” Simpson said of the matchup versus Chelsea on Thursday.

Late reports from Chelsea High School have the Warriors winners by a 56-44 margin over the Red Devils.

Wakefield (9-5) won’t have time to prepare for their next Middlesex League opponent, as they host Wilmington (3-11) tonight at 5:15 p.m. The Warriors beat the Wildcats 83-48 on Dec. 21.


Boys’ hoopbox score

BEL — 18-21-22-4 – 65

WAKE — 20-18-16-10 – 64

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