Warrior playoff recap; girls’ hoop advances to semifinals

Feb 18, 2021 by

Published in the February 18, 2021 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WAKEFIELD — It was the day of the underdog for Wakefield High winter sports.

Four Warrior teams competed in the Middlesex League playoffs yesterday, all occurring on the road against larger Liberty Division opponents. 

The Wakefield High girls’ basketball team was the only one of the four to advance, beating higher seeded Woburn at Woburn High, 45-39.

Of the 16 teams left in four semifinals between four sports, only five Freedom Division teams remain: the Burlington girls’ basketball, girls’ hockey and boys’ hockey teams, the Watertown boys’ basketball team and the Wakefield girls’ basketball team. 

The No. 6 boys’ hockey team started the day with a 12 p.m. puck drop at the John Ryan arena in Watertown against No. 3 Belmont. In one of the best playoff games of the day throughout the league, the Warriors and Marauders were even through 45 minutes of game action, forcing a 3 v. 3 overtime.

Belmont and Wakefield were even through that for four minutes and 57 seconds of the five minute overtime period as well when Belmont scored with three seconds left to win it. Senior goalie Jacob Barrett tallied an unofficial 33 saves in an incredible effort throughout. The Warriors were down 1-0 after one and tied it with 10:20 left in the second when sophomore Bobby DeFeo tipped home a shot by junior Joey O’Brien. 

Up next for Wakefield was the girls’ hoop team who tipped off in Woburn at 5 p.m. The Warriors played a terrific first half to take a 26-20 lead at the break but the Tanners stormed out of the gates in the 3rd, going on a 13-0 run to take a 33-26 lead. In desperate need of a bucket, senior captain Clara Butler (12 points, 4 reb, 2 ast) hit one of her four 3’s on the day to get Wakefield back into it and close the quarter on a 5-1 run, making it 34-31 Woburn after three.

The fourth belonged to Wakefield, who dominated on the defensive end while attacking the hoop on the other side as they won the quarter 14-5. 

The Warriors were led by junior Ashlee Purcell who had 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Junior Sophie Brown had 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. With only a six-person rotation in the second half, Butler, Purcell, Brown, senior captain Brianna Lotti (3 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast), freshman Emma Quinn (3 pts) and sophomore Emma Shinney (3 ast, 4 steal) all played exceptional defense. 

No. 5 Wakefield played No. 1 Burlington in a semifinal game this morning after press time. The Red Devils won both matchups in the regular season.

The No. 8 Warrior girls’ hockey team traveled to the Ed Burns Arena to face off against No. 1 Arlington at 6 p.m. 

Wakefield, coming off a resounding 6-0 win over Winchester on Tuesday, skated right with the Spy Ponders all game. Junior goalie and associate captain Abby Boudreau continued her tradition of spectacular postseason performances to conclude her fourth season as Wakefield’s starting goalie. She had 14 saves in the first period alone as the Spy Ponders outshot Wakefield 16-5 in the frame on their way to a 2-1 lead at the half. 

Arlington scored the first on the power play with a tipped shot in front. Wakefield evened it up at 1-1 on an unassisted goal by junior Emma Johnsen who skated onto a free puck after a Spy Ponder defender lost control of it in her own zone. Johnsen put a perfect deke on the goalie and finished top shelf to tie the game with 9:21 left in the 1st. Arlington responded just over two minutes later to make it 2-1.

As they would continue to do all game, the Warriors put their bodies on the line in true playoff fashion with multiple players blocking shots including junior associate captain Olivia Johnsen, junior Kayli Porter and sophomore Charlotte Rossicone. The Spy Ponders continued to force Wakefield to play in the defensive zone and extended the lead to 3-1 in the second. The Warriors couldn’t find any more goals but continued to work hard until the buzzer.

At 7:30 p.m. in Arlington, the No. 6 boys’ hoop team tipped off against the No. 3 Spy Ponders. The Warriors were the better team through the first two quarters, winning the first 21-16 and taking a 38-31 lead into halftime before Arlington took over in the 3rd and went on to win 69-57.

Senior Brett Okundaye (19 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 4 stl) scored 17 points in the first half, beating the buzzer with a two handed stuff to give the Warriors all the momentum going into the break. 

Senior Chris Alden (15 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast) started the second half scoring with a 3 from fellow captain Paul Holman (5 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast) to take a 41-31 lead. Arlington turned it on after that, going on a roaring 20-2 run to take a 51-43 lead. Okundaye was injured towards the end of that run when he flew high to block a shot with authority and landed awkwardly, resulting in a serious ankle or foot injury.

With 1:17 left in the third, down eight points and their leading scorer, Wakefield played hard for the remainder of the half but couldn’t cut into the lead as the Spy Ponders finished strong. 

Full game recaps with reactions from coaches will appear at a later date.

In the end, the 2021 Middlesex League playoffs served their purpose. It gave winter student athletes a chance to play for something meaningful during a season in which meaning has sometimes been hard to find. Every winter athlete was grateful they got a chance to play this year, and they played as hard as they always do, but there is no doubting the hand they were dealt. It was a two and seven – a hand tailor-made to fold. They bluffed their way to a postseason that was every bit as intense as any MIAA state tournament is, if not more.

In that environment, regardless of results, Middlesex League winter athletes got the recognition they deserve.

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