BOSTON – Everything looked set up for Watertown High School’s boys basketball team to put away another MIAA State Tournament win, with the score tied going into the fourth quarter, but the Raiders shooting went cold and Hanover took over over for a 46-40 State Semifinal win at the TD Garden on Monday afternoon.
Watertown head coach Steve Harrington had his team looking poised to go to its first Div. 3 State Final since 2011, but Hanover’s defense tightened during the last stanza of the showdown. (See how the game went here.)
“Defensively, we were outstanding in the first half,” Harrington said. “And to their credit it was their defense. They made us shoot a little quicker we didn’t get, at times, as good looks as our kids are accustomed to.”
The Raiders overcame an early deficit to lead by three at the end of the first quarter, 11-8, and at halftime, 18-5. The teams traded the lead during the third quarter, and with three minutes left in the third Watertown had chiseled out a four point lead, 28-24. That’s when the scoring stopped.
“They went to the zone and that obviously bothered us,” Harrington said. “We had some good looks but we had to make some more shots. I thought that was probably one of the most important parts of the game.”
The third quarter finished 28-28, and Watertown did not score until more than halfway through the fourth quarter. The scoring drought ended after more than seven minutes, with the score 37-30 Hanover. The Indians had build on the lead, which got as large as 11, as junior forward Matt Delahunt scored seven of his 16 points in the final quarter, and junior guard John Landry hit five free throws in the fourth for a total of 14.
Harrington said those two players were key to Hanover’s win, but he also credited senior center Patrick Flynn, who is heading to UNH next year.
“The big guy in the middle was great,” Harrington said. “I thought the big guy really caused us trouble.”
Some late scoring by the Watertown bench – a three from Robert Danielian and a lay up by Elian Guerrero – brought the final margin to six.
Watertown’s top player for most of the year, junior center John Korte, lead the team in scoring, with 21 points. However, no one else got close to double figures. Sophomore guard Vondre Chase and senior froward Jayden Hairston each had four. Junior guard Julio Cesar, who scored 27 against Bedford in the North Section Final, was held to three, and senior forward Isaac Huff scored three.
While Hanover went three deep on its bench before the final minutes, Watertown relied on its starters. Harrington said he did not go to his bench because no one was in foul trouble, and that has been the strategy all year.
“We have a good set five and when those guys play well together that’s how we roll,” Harrington said. “If they get tired or get in foul trouble we go to the next guy.”
The big stage of the Garden may have had an impact on Watertown, Korte said.
“It was a lot different, honestly. The court is a lot bigger, there’s so much adrenaline going into the game, but I tried to calm that down,” Korte said. “And I tried to play like it was just another game, but obviously nerves got to some of us and we just couldn’t come through.”
The loss ended a successful season for the Raiders, who finished 21-3 in the state semifinal after going out in the first round last year.
“We got a lot better through the off season. A lot of kids put in a lot effort and a lot of work and I think it showed off in the season,” Korte said. “We really came together, we really got better as the season went along and to get to this spot and be able to play and it was just amazing.
“Obviously, we came up short. We didn’t hit enough shots, if we did we would have won this game.”