The Watertown High School boys basketball team came out for warmups for the first round State Tournament game Tuesday night wearing shirts emblazoned with “#SLEEPER.” After the 77-32 win over Essex Tech, however, it will hard for opponents not to take notice of the Raiders.
Senior center John Korte said the shirts were inspired by Boston Herald high school sports writer Danny Ventura, who called the Raiders a sleeper in the MIAA Div. 3 North bracket.
“It was kind of a fireback, because we think we are the best team in D3 North and we wanted to show that, like we did tonight,” Korte said. “And, also, I feel like outside Watertown people don’t really believe in us to be able to go very far –especially with the seventh seed.”
The Raiders hit the floor like they were on a mission and jumped out to an 18-0 lead. Essex Tech got its first point on a free throw with just over 2:30 left in the first quarter, which was answered with a three pointer by freshman guard Gabe Spinelli. By halftime, Watertown had taken out its starters and had eclipsed the 50 point mark, leading 51-14.
Watertown head coach Steve Harrington said game went as planned.
“Our defense led to offense,” Harrington said. “Once we made a few three point shots it separated the game quickly and ultimately it was what we did on defense.”
The starting lineup returned for the beginning of the second half, but Harrington pulled them with three minutes left in the third. The quarter ended 61-17. The reserves held their own, and walked away with a 45-point win.
“Sixteen guys played for us tonight,” Harrington said. “If this is our last home game it was nice for guys to get in there and finish off the home schedule.”
Senior guard Wenston Rodriguez was the Raiders’ leading scorer with 19 points, a point more than Korte, who scored on three pointers, free throws and two slam dunks.
“It’s the playoffs. I tried to take my game to the next level,” Rodriguez said.
In all, 11 Watertown players contributed to the victory. Jose Taveras led Essex Tech with 12 points.
Next up for the Raiders will be the winner of Wednesday’s game between second seeded Lynnfield and 15th seeded Swampscott. Barring a major upset, Watertown will travel to Lynnfield for the North quarterfinal on Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
“We played Lynnfield last year. That will be a very tough test,” Harrington said.
Last season, the Raiders beat Lynnfield by 12 points in the North Section semifinal.
See more game photos in the gallery below: