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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham and Walpole High School varsity boys basketball teams met for the first of two meetings in 2018-2019 on Tuesday night in Walpole.
Behind a game-high 19 points from junior point guard Will Dorion, the Rockets outlasted the Rebels in a game that featured a heavy amount of three-point shots by both sides, as well as a pair of thunderous dunks by Needham senior center Matt Smith (13 points).
Senior forward Conor McDonough led Walpole with a team-high 17 points. Senior guard Matt Chamoun also played a significant role for the Rebels, scoring 12 points on four three-pointers.
Needham began the game on a 7-0 run before Walpole cut the deficit to 12-8. However, Dorion nailed a three-pointer from distance to make it a seven-point game once again and force the Rebels to call a timeout. Walpole settled things down following the break and cut the deficit to 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Senior guard Stevian Pajotte drilled a three-pointer in the opening minute of the second quarter for Walpole to cut the deficit to 18-17, followed by a layup from Chamoun to give Walpole its first lead of the contest at 19-18. The lead fluctuated back and forth throughout the remainder of the half before Matt Smith threw down a dunk on a fast break to give Needham back the lead at 25-24. Walpole took back the lead at 27-25, but a two-point fade-away just before the buzzer by junior forward Jake Hamermesh knotted the game at 27 for Needham at halftime.
Five straight points by senior forward Cam Schlittler to begin the second half, including a three-point play, gave Walpole a 32-27 lead. Back-to-back three-pointers by Chamoun gave Walpole a 40-33 lead and forced Needham to take a timeout. Dorion responded for Needham following the break, swishing home a three-pointer followed by a layup, as well as a layup from senior forward Christian Ruffo (seven points) to tie the game at 40 at the end of three quarters.
Needham began the fourth quarter on a 6-2 run to take a 46-42 lead. The Rockets extended their advantage to 52-46 with 3:36 remaining following a big three-pointer by senior guard Kyle Sullivan (six points). Dorion drilled a two-point fade-away to make it a 54-46 game before Sullivan delivered the dagger in the form of a three-pointer with under 30 seconds to play to make it an nine point lead for Needham at 57-48. Matt Smith put the exclamation point on the victory with a loud dunk just before the buzzer, following a Walpole turnover, and the Rockets snagged the 59-50 victory.
Needham will host Xaverian on December 29 following a brief holiday break while Walpole will get back after it on December 28 in the Westwood Holiday Classic. The two rivals will meet again in Needham on January 22.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.