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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
After a tough 43-36 loss to Braintree last Tuesday put an end to their two-game win streak, the Wellesley High School varsity boys basketball team returned to the court on Friday night to face off against longtime Bay State Conference rival Natick. Thanks to the clutch efforts of senior power forward Will Jackowitz, the Raiders were able to pull out an incredible 67-66 victory in double overtime to improve to 8-6 (6-3) on the season.
The Raiders came out sporting their pink warm up jerseys on Friday evening in honor of the “Think Pink” campaign for breast cancer awareness. Along with the pink warm-up attire, the Raiders also came out sporting some slick touch, as the black and red were five of seven from beyond the arc in the first quarter alone, three of which came from junior shooting guard Ryan Murrey.
The Raiders opened up the game on a 10-2 run, and were able to push the lead to 22-10 at the end of one, thanks to incredible defense and rebounding by senior captain and strong forward Max Guiffre along with skilled ball movement by freshman point guard Anthony Lumley off the bench.
Jackowitz really began to take over the game following the break, as the 6’7” giant put up 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a block in the second frame. Thanks to Jackowitz’s efforts in quarter two, the Raiders were able to keep pace with Natick’s hot three-point shooting, and the Raiders entered halftime sporting a double-digit lead at 36-26 despite getting outscored 16-14 in the second quarter.
Natick came out of the half looking like a completely different team, as the Redhawks were able to knock down shots from beyond the arc while also locking down the paint and double-teaming Jackowitz to prevent any further damage by the Raider star. Thanks to these adjustments made by Natick at the half, the Raider lead at the end of the third quarter was trimmed down to just one.
Both the Raiders and Redhawks traded blows throughout the fourth quarter, but the Redhawks were able to tie things up at 57 with less than five seconds to play. Wellesley then inbounded the ball to senior captain and point guard Jack Waisel, who ran it up the floor before dishing it to Max Guiffre at the top of the key. Guiffre’s potential game-winning buzzer shot rimmed out and the game headed to overtime.
In the first overtime, both sides played extremely conservatively, taking their time calling plays and trying not to make unforced errors in the offensive end. Will Jackowitz scored four of Wellesley’s six points in the overtime, but unfortunately, Natick was able to bury a three-pointer and sink a couple of free throws to force the game into a second overtime tied at 53.
The second overtime saw a similar rhythm as the first, with both teams favoring the defensive approach rather than going on the aggressive. However, a three-point play by Max Guiffre with just over a minute to play in the second overtime period gave the Raiders a 67-64 lead. Natick countered with a pair of free throws with just under 20 seconds remaining to cut the Wellesley lead to 67-66. Despite missing two late free throws that would have extended the lead back to three, the Raiders were able to hold off Natick on their final offensive possession and pull out the 67-66 double-overtime victory.
Wellesley is now victorious in three of their last four contests, and their upcoming games at Walpole on January 27 and at Norwood on January 31 will likely decide their postseason fate.