Warriors win on senior night

Feb 13, 2020 by

Beat Winchester to stay in playoff hunt

THE SENIORS were honored before their victory over Stoneham on Friday night. Pictured with their families from left to right are Winnie Mylan, Kyleigh Flannigan and Lily Smith. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Published in the February 13, 2020 edition.

WAKEFIELD — It wasn’t necessarily a typical senior night for the Wakefield High girls’ basketball team on Friday.

Everyone wants to win on senior night.

But wanting a win and needing a win are sometimes two different things.

The Warriors, entering the game with a 7-10 record needed a win to keep their hopes of a playoff appearance alive. They got it with a 57-36 victory over Stoneham thanks in part to a convincing fourth quarter in which Wakefield outscored the Spartans 21-5.

Wakefield’s three seniors, Kyleigh Flannigan, Winnie Mylan and Lily Smith, were honored before the game and thanked for their years of dedication to the team.

The Warriors are very much a young team this year, something that usually equates to rebuilding seasons. Flannigan, Mylan and Smith have done a great job helping their younger teammates believe that they can win in a tough Middlesex League and have a chance to make the tournament. That’s a chance that is still there after the Warriors beat Winchester 56-34 on Tuesday night, improving to 9-10. If Wakefield can beat Burlington on the road tonight, they will punch their ticket to the Div. 2 North tournament.

That’s a scenario that seemed unlikely when the Warriors started 2-5, but thanks in part to a lead-by-example type of guidance from the seniors, the young Warriors got better, seemingly every game.

“The biggest thing I’ll miss about all three is their leadership and positive attitude,” said Wakefield head coach Jason Pavey. “All four years, but especially this year, all three have been great role models. We have a really young team and Kyleigh, Winnie and Lily have shown the younger kids what the expectations are to be in the program. They are true student-athletes who have been an excellent representation of Wakefield High. We are all really proud of them.”

Against the Spartans, Mylan (8 points) helped spark the Warriors in the first with a 3. Sophomore Emma Shinney (6 points) also hit two 3’s and Wakefield took a 13-7 lead after one.

The Spartans bounced back in the second quarter thanks to some strong scoring from Sophia Aresco who scored eight of her 10 in the quarter. Aresco hit a 3 with two seconds left to send the game into halftime tied at 21-21.

“For the first half and some of the second, we did not execute at a high level,” said Pavey. “In the huddles and during timeouts, we kept emphasizing that we were getting good looks on offense but needed to execute and finish.”

Wakefield reclaimed a five-point lead in the third quarter thanks in part to sophomores Sophie Brown (10 points) and Maeve Gaffney (17 points). Both had six points in the frame.

The Warriors found another gear in the fourth. Five different players (Mylan, Flannigan, Gaffney, Clara Butler and Ashlee Purcell) hit a 3 in the quarter to put the Spartans away and provide the execution that coach Pavey was looking for.

Flannigan saved her best for her last quarter at the field house with five points.

“Things finally clicked in the fourth and we were able to go on a pretty big run to put the game away,” said Pavey. “The kids kept at it, playing with short memories – not dwelling on mistakes – and came out in the fourth with confidence. That’s what we need to do going forward.”

The best part of the game was perhaps the balanced effort from seniors and underclassmen. It’s exactly how the senior three wanted it to go. Getting their teammates to succeed is always more important to them than their own stats.

While only three players, the seniors have representative in both the frontcourt and backcourt who have helped their teammates progress. Mylan and Smith have proudly watched sophomores Brown and Purcell improve over the last two years as well as freshman Shinney this year. And forward Flannigan has helped players like sophomore Gaffney turn into strong competitors on both ends of the court.

“I believe the greatest legacy a senior or a group of seniors can have is to leave the program in better shape than when they came in,” said Pavey. “All three seniors have helped mentor our younger players and their impact will definitely be seen on next year’s team.”

In Winchester on Tuesday night, the Warriors shook off a slow start in which they were down 14-8 and roared back, outscoring the Sachems 17-4 in the second quarter never looking back.

Gaffney and Purcell led the way with 19 points each.

Gaffney had a balanced game, scoring six in the second quarter, four in the third and seven in the fourth. The sophomore can score from anywhere on the court and she proved it with a 3 and two two-point buckets in the final quarter.

“Maeve Gaffney continues to be steady on offense,” said Pavey.

Purcell did most of her damage in the third quarter with nine points including one 3-pointer. She was scoring well, but was just as impressive on the defensive end, pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers all game.

“Ashlee Purcell was great,” said Pavey. “She scored 19 points off the bench and had a handful of steals.”

Purcell, who missed the first half of the season with an injury, proved that she is back to her typical self, causing havoc on the defensive end and driving strong to the bucket.

In the end, it was the balance that coach Pavey was most proud off.

“Our defensive intensity was great all night long,” said Pavey. “We were also able to execute on offense and get good looks which has been a focus of ours in practice.”

In addition to Purcell, Pavey was also quick to credit guards Mylan, Brown and Shinney who helped create a dominant perimeter defense which is very much Wakefield’s identity.

The Warriors will need every bit of that defensive intensity and offensive execution to beat a strong Burlington team tonight. The stakes are high: win and the Warriors are off to the Div. 2 North Tournament.

Wakefield beat Burlington 31-30 on Jan. 17. Burlington (12-5) was 7-1 in league games at the time. Wakefield overcame a 14-2 deficit in that one and were led by 11 from Gaffney and nine from Mylan.

Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Burlington High.

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