LOWELL -Watertown fought off a tough St. Mary’s team and foul trouble to claim the a 44-36 win and the North Section boys basketball title for the second year win a row, Saturday afternoon.
The second half of the MIAA Div. 3 North final at Tsongas Arena started like a dream for the Raiders, who went on an 11 point run to lead 21-11. However, when Watertown star seniors center John Korte and Guard Julio Fulcar went to the bench with four fouls each the Spartans closed the gap to one point early in the final quarter.
A layup by junior forward Henry Papadopoulos, who came off the bench for Fulcar, stopped the bleeding and senior guard Wenston Rodriguez added another two to give Watertown some breathing room.
“I thought at that point with them pressing we needed to take a chance with Julio, we needed to get him back in there,” said Watertown Head Coach Steve Harrington. “Once we did that, Henry made a big basket and Wenston made a basket.”
The Raiders were staying even, but still struggling with rebounds against a tall St. Mary’s team with Watertown’s big man, Korte, on the bench. With both Fulcar and Korte back in the game the Raiders outscored St. Mary’s 11-7, including hitting eight of 11 free throws down the stretch to win by eight.
The first half was a low scoring affair, ending 10-9 with the Raiders holding the edge. Korte scored seven points and said he had to change up his game after getting in early foul trouble.
“I got two charges early, and that really changed the way I was playing because I had to play a little more tentative than I was used to,” Korte said. “They packed it in. They played really good defense and it was really hard for us to score in the first half. We brought it out in the second and started to hit some shots.”
The second half burst was sparked by a trey by Fulcar, who scored 19 points and said the team was laser focused and the team fed off the energy inside Tsongas. Rodriguez added 10 points.
In the first half the team struggles from outside, and shooting in a big arena may have contributed to that.
“We don’t try to find excuses,” Fulcar said. “We just keep shooting. What else can you do?”
Harrington said the team’s defense was a big factor, and eventually his team began making baskets.
“I thought the first half we had tremendous defense and we rebounded the ball. It was just about making a shot or two to separate it,” Harrington said. “In the second half, once Julio made a three to put us up like three, then we made another play and we began scoring a little more and we maintained the ability to make stops.”
Watertown returns to the TD Garden Tuesday afternoon for the State Semifinal against South Champs Burke High School out of Boston. The game will be played Tuesday, March 13 at 4 p.m.
See more photos from the North Section Final below: