Raiders headed back to TD Garden!

Watertown boys' basketball beats top-seeded St. Mary's to defend Division 3 North crown; WHS will play in state semifinals Tuesday

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The seventh-seeded Watertown High boys' basketball team beat visiting Essex Tech, 77-32, in a first-round game in MIAA Division 3 North sectional on Feb. 27, 2018

The seventh-seeded Watertown High boys' basketball team beat visiting Essex Tech, 77-32, in a first-round game in MIAA Division 3 North sectional on Feb. 27, 2018

Raider Times photo / Elizabeth Allen

Raider Times photo / Elizabeth Allen

The seventh-seeded Watertown High boys' basketball team beat visiting Essex Tech, 77-32, in a first-round game in MIAA Division 3 North sectional on Feb. 27, 2018

Nathan Follett, Raider Times staff

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On the big stage once again, the Raiders showed no fear.

Seventh-seeded Watertown High School took down top-seeded St. Mary’s of Lynn, 44-36, to claim their second straight Division 3 North championship on Saturday at Tsongas Center in Lowell.

The Raiders (18-6) will play South champion Burke (24-2) in the MIAA Division 3 state semifinals Tuesday at TD Garden in Boston at 4 p.m. 

Watertown’s Julio Fulcar was the game high scorer with 19 and three rebounds. Senior Wenston Rodriguez had 10 points and five rebounds, and senior captain John Korte had 9 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, and three blocks. Junior Yoseph Hamad added 4 points and four of the Raiders’ 10 steals in a strong defensive effort.

The game got off to a slow start, as both teams struggled to hit shots in the opening minutes. After the first quarter, the score was 7-6 in favor of Watertown, with only three people scoring for both teams combined. The game turned into a defensive battle, which Watertown was only too happy to play, as it has allowed an average of just 36 points per game in the playoffs.

However, the Raiders’ offense quickly ran cold. Watertown managed just 3 points — all on free throws — in the second quarter. However, St. Mary’s (19-4) did not capitalize on the Raiders’ offensive struggles and took only a 1-point lead into the half, 11-10.

“They played really good defense,” said Korte of St. Mary’s. “They packed it in the middle early, which made it hard for us to score.”  

Fulcar had 7 points for the Raiders at the half, while junior Jalen Echevarria tallied 8 points for the Spartans. Echevarria provided most of the offense for St. Mary’s, and would finish with 15 points.

In the third quarter, Watertown started to come alive. The Raiders scored 11 straight points to begin the half, punctuated with an emphatic one-handed jam by Korte that prompted the Spartans to call a timeout. Watertown’s 10-point lead started to dwindle, though, as Korte picked up his fourth foul and had to be subbed out with two minutes remaining in the third. St. Mary’s found their groove and cut the Raiders’ advantage to 4 points. 

We want to win the state championship. That’s what I’m focused on.”

— JOHN KORTE

Watertown then tightened up, with senior Robert Danielian playing strong defense in place of Korte, drawing a key charge. The Raiders led, 29-23, going into the fourth, but St. Mary’s shaved the lead down to 1 point early on. Then Fulcar started to take control, converting the free throw from his and-one layup to give the Raiders a 7-point lead with three minutes remaining.

St. Mary’s would not go away, as they pressured the Raiders in the backcourt in the final minutes. But Watertown kept getting defensive stops as it stretched the lead to 9 points with 90 seconds remaining.

Hamad and freshman point guard Gabe Spinelli hit free throws in the final seconds to ice the game and send Watertown to the state semifinals and back to TD Garden.

Watertown head Coach Stephen Harrington likes the way the team has come together over the course of the season.

“We’ve been outstanding,” he said. “We’re laser focused, and that’s right where we need to be.”

After the Raiders’ first playoff victory, Korte said that he was looking ahead to the state championship. After winning the North championship, Korte’s goal is now almost within reach. He reiterated his hopes today:

“We want to win the state championship. That’s what I’m focused on.”

–March 10, 2018–

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