A version of this article appeared on print in our January 2017 issue.
BOSTON – It’s been a phenomenal start to the year for the Wellesley girls basketball team, and on Sunday the Raiders had a special opportunity to make it even better.
The female Raiders faced off against Lincoln-Sudbury, while the boys faced Needham at TD Garden in the 4th annual Good Sports Invitational. The two Wellesley teams split the series against their opponents with the girls team winning against Lincoln-Sudbury 37-31, but the boys team losing by the score of 47-32 to the Needham Rockets.
The girls team remained perfect so far this season, moving to 8-0 while L-S fell to 2-6, while the boys team dropped to 5-4 with their loss to Needham who moved up to 7-1.
Both the boys and girls teams were part of the all-day event that consists of nine games with various towns participating throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening.
“We pride ourselves on our defense and that’s where everything starts with us,” said Wellesley girls coach Glen Magpiong, whose team held the Warriors to just 13 points in the first half.
The Raiders were clicking on all cylinders in the first half, taking a 24-13 lead into halftime.
Leading by 14 points twice in the third quarter, Wellesley carried a 31-21 advantage into the fourth quarter before L-S made things a bit closer than Magpiong would have liked.
A layup by Warriors sophomore Sofia Rose cut the L-S deficit to 31-23 with 6:09 left in the game, and two free throws by senior Samantha Washburn made it 31-25 with 5:48 to go. The Raiders got it back to 35-26 thanks to a jumper by junior CJ Jones with 2:48 left. L-S got two free throws with 1:57 left to make it 35-28, and senior Larsen Henken hit a 3-pointer with six seconds left to make it a six-point game before the final buzzer sounded.
“Early on the juices were flowing and we were ready to go,” Magpiong said. “But we had a bit longer halftime than usual and I think the energy just came down a bit late in the game.
“The girls did a good job battling through it and coming out of here with a win.”
“It’s fun,” Dorian Cohen ’17 said of playing at the TD Garden. “When you’re out there playing it doesn’t really feel as big as when you’re watching on TV, but I was definitely trying to take it all in and enjoy it.”
“It feels great to look up in the stands and see everyone from home cheering you on,” added Leo Sperling ’17.
Raider Kelcie Zarle ’18 was unable to play on Sunday due to an illness, but the appreciation of the opportunity to be VIP at the Garden for the day wasn’t lost on her or her teammates.
“We were here last year too and the whole experience is great to be a part of,” Zarle said. “I didn’t get the chance to play but, watching my teammates play hard and enjoy the experience was really cool.”
For the boys team a win over the perennially contending Rockets would have been huge.
But it was Needham who seemed right at home under the rafters at the Garden, dominating Wellesley to the tune of a 47-32 win.
Needham moves to 7-1 and remains atop the BSC’s Carey Division. Wellesley (5-4) entered the day tied with Natick for first place in the Herget division.
“Coming in that back entrance it almost makes you feel like a (Celtics) player,” added Owen DeOliveria ’19. “Overall it’s a really cool experience being able to come out to a neutral location and have all your fans from home cheering you on while their fans cheer them on. It just makes you want to play harder.”
To its credit, Wellesley refused to roll over, and the Raiders saved their best quarter for the fourth despite never really being in contention throughout the game.
While the moments leading up to the game were special for Wellesley, once tipoff arrived it was Needham who had all the fun. The Rockets led just 10-6 after the first quarter, but that lead quickly inflated to 28-11 after the second quarter.
Needham’s offense couldn’t be stopped, however, while Wellesley’s offense went cold for the rest of the third quarter and the Raiders trailed 39-18 heading to the fourth
Down by 20 with 4:38 left in the fourth, two free throws by freshman Anthony Lumley made it 41-23. Minutes later, sophomore Alex Stoddard hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-28 and prompt the Rockets to call a timeout with 2:44 left.
A steal and fast-break layup by Zimmerman cut it to 45-30 with two minutes left and Lumley added a floater in the lane with 1:30 to go to make it 45-32, but it was far too little too late for the Raiders.
“There’s always 32 minutes to play,” said head coach Reidy when asked what motivates him to continue coaching hard despite the scoreboard being lopsided. “As players, as a coach, the goal is to always want to compete. I ask that out of these guys and expect it out of myself and my staff as well.”
“We showed that we don’t quit,” said Ben Zimmerman ’18. “We had a bit of a late comeback there. All throughout the season we’ve had leads that we’ve blown or we’ve came back, so I think today just shows that we’re never going to give up in any game that we’re in.”