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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Walpole and Westwood boys basketball teams took to the hardwood last Tuesday night in the preliminary round of the Division II South Sectionals.
The No. 17-seeded Rebels (7-15) entered looking to make some noise under first-year head coach Mike Masto, while the No. 16 Wolverines (10-12) came in winners of seven of their final eight regular season games, including a tilt against rival Xaverian (74-62) in the Riley Winter Classic.
Behind a game-high 26-point performance by senior forward and captain Reed Wilson, the Wolverines pulled away from the Brett Lavanchy-led Rebels in the second half to secure an 80-61 victory and set up a first-round date with No. 1 overall seed Tech Boston.
Five straight points by Lavanchy (finished with 19) gave Walpole an 11-9 lead midway through the first quarter. The Rebels extended their lead to as many as six at 18-12 with under a minute to play in the opening frame, but a three-pointer by senior captain and forward Nick Anderson (16 points) just before the buzzer cut the deficit to 18-15 for Westwood at the end of one.
The lead changed periodically throughout the second quarter. Back-to-back two-point jumpers by Wilson and Anderson reclaimed the lead for Westwood at 19-18 before four straight points by Lavanchy and a free throw by junior captain Matt Falvey (12 points) gave the Rebels back the lead at 23-19. Westwood later retook the lead following a layup by Anderson before a pair free throws by Falvey gave Walpole the edge at 27-26. The two teams stayed neck-and-neck until the final buzzer, but a layup by sophomore guard Jack Terzian with 10 seconds to play gave Westwood a 33-31 lead at the half.
After the break, Reed Wilson simply took over the game for Westwood, scoring 11 third quarter points that included hitting 100 percent (3 of 3) of his three-pointers. Westwood stormed out of the locker room on a 13-6 run to take a 46-37 lead. Lavanchy responded for Walpole with a pair of layups to trim the deficit down to 47-43, but a 7-0 run that included a three-pointer by Wilson and layups by Terzian and senior guard Fawaz Ilupeju extended Westwood’s advantage to 54-43 before a layup by Aidan Chariton (11 points) with 12 seconds to play in the quarter stopped the bleeding and cut the deficit to 54-45 for Walpole at the end of three.
Ahead by 12 entering the fourth, the Wolverines went on the aggressive in search of the kill. Five straight points by Anderson extended Westwood’s advantage back to 12 at 59-47 after Chariton cut the deficit to 54-47 on Walpole’s opening possession of the quarter. Senior captain Trey Wilkes sank a two-point floater to cut the deficit to 59-51, but the Wolverines responded with baskets by senior captain Thomas Herbert (12 points), a layup by Anderson, and a layup by sophomore guard Jonathan Ng to take a 65-51 lead with five minutes to play.
The Rebels battled back in an attempt to cut into the deficit, as a three-pointer by junior forward Connor McDonough cut the Westwood lead to 69-57 with three minutes remaining. However, Westwood put the nail in the coffin with an 11-4 run to finish the game, which included a three-point play as well as a three-pointer by Wilson. The clock hit zeroes and Westwood advanced with the 80-61 victory.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.