BRAINTREE, Mass. -- In each loss the Braintree basketball team has suffered this year, the Wamps have lost the game late, often times in heart-breaking fashion.
When they bested visiting Wellesley, 67-53, on Monday night, the Wamps used a fast start and faster finish to ensure there would not be another let down in the final minutes of play.
“In our five losses, we’ve been either tied or ahead with less than four minutes to go,” said Wamps coach Robert Crook. “We felt like we were due for one where we just broke through and played it all the way to the end.”
Braintree (7-5, 6-4 Bay State) jumped out to a 6-0 lead to open the game, and led 18-10 at the end of one in a game in which the Wamps never trailed.
Wellesley used an impressive defensive third -- they surrendered just six points in the quarter -- to close the gap to four points. Braintree exploded in the fourth though, as eight different players scored en route to the Wamps pouring in an impressive 26 points to cap off the win.
The defense, obviously if they scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, just wasn’t there,” said Wellesley coach Glen Mapgiong. “We gave up 35 points in the first half, so that’s 62 in just three quarters. We made that nice run in the third, and we’re capable of playing good defense, but if not everybody is engaged, then it all breaks down.”
Braintree racing out to the early start, and finishing the way did was a byproduct of quick pace they pushed all game. The Wamps used suffocating defensive pressure to prevent the Raiders from finding much rhythm on the offensive end, and that same pressure resulted in Braintee finding a lot of easy transition buckets.
“We all broke down, especially in transition,” said Mapgiong. “I don’t know how many times they can just throw a pass over the top of us and us never learn from it.”
Fully Loaded Bench: Braintree was able to maintain it’s pace of play largely in part because every player on the roster seemingly rotated in for significant minutes. Nine different players scored in all, and eight of them registered at least five points.
Sophomore Keyshaad Dixon and junior Tim Miller paced the Wamps offense with 11 points each while Brendan Hobgood and Steve Leary both chipped in with nine in the all hands on deck effort.
The selfless showing on the offensive end is one the Wamps have grown accustomed to, if for no other reason than personnel has dictated as such.
“We don’t have one go-to guy,” said Crook. “That’s just the way we have to play. Everyone cuts and runs and does their jobs. You would like sometimes to have that go-to guy, we’ve found that in some of our close games, but the way we play, we don’t say ‘we’re going to run this play for someone.’ We just run our plays and we have several options, and whoever is open takes the shot.”
No obvious go-to guy might be on the floor in the team oriented attack for the Wamps, but Dixon certainly looked the part of a play-maker no matter where he was against Wellesley. In addition to his 11 points, he also grabbed six rebounds -- three offensive and three defensive, dished out five assists and blocked four shots in the win.
Run-Down Raiders: There was some concern among the Raiders’ coaching staff about the freshness of their players heading into Monday’s contest, as it marked Wellesley’s third games in four days -- including an emotionally charged win over St. John’s Prep at TD Garden on Saturday. The fatigue factor certainly appeared to be an issue throughout, as the Raiders seemed to off on both ends of the floor.
“We were tired, but that’s really no excuse -- we just didn’t play inspired basketball,” said Mapgiong. I was very concerned about tonight coming off of Saturday, but again, no excuse. Bottom line is you gotta play basketball and we didn’t. We got beat up and down the floor.”
Wellesley still saw three three guys reach double figures in scoring -- Andy Kaplan had 13, Nir Liebenthal added 12 and Aidan James chipped in 11 -- but the Raiders missed out on a lot of points because of missed shots in the paint, as well as upwards of 20 turnovers (nine in the first quarter).
“We got a lot of looks close in the first half and in the second half,” said Mapgiong. “Our shooting percentage from six feet and in had to be about 15 percent. It wasn’t good.”
Wellesley falls to 9-5 overall and 6-5 in league play with the loss.