BOSTON -- It could not hit a shot for the first four minutes of the game, but once it did, Watertown put on a textbook performance against Cardinal Spellman in the Division 3 State semi-finals, 56-36.
Watertown (19-5) came out of the gate cold, finding difficulty in hitting even a layup. In the latter part of the quarter, it picked up its defensive intensity, which in turn sparked its offensive game, and lead 14-9 after the opening frame.
“I think we were a little bit jittery playing out there,” said Marco Coppola (26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals). “I know me and Connor (Stockdale) have played out there before but some of the other guys haven’t. Once we settled in and adjusted to the court and really picked up the defensive pressure, we were alright.”
Stockdale, the 6-foot-3 senior, finished with only 5 points, but made most of his impact on defense, finishing with 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block.
Coppola initially had a difficult time shooting from long range, but found success going to the basket and creating his shot of the dribble. When he finally hit his first three-pointer with a minute to go in the second half, Watertown already had a double-digit lead thanks to its defensive effort.
“It was a good team effort,” said Coppola. “The whole tournament has been about defense for us and I think that was the story for us tonight. The points just come.”
At halftime, it was ahead 27-16 and playing the high-energy, defensive-minded style that epitomizes Watertown basketball. When the third quarter started, it had stretched the lead even more, but also stayed true to the defensive side of the ball. Spellman (20-5) only scored six points in the third. In contrast, Watertown scored 20, including 3 three-pointers, to take a 47-22 lead into the fourth.
“It’s been like that the whole tournament for us, coming out at halftime,” said Coppola. “Once we have a lead we know to just put it on them in the third quarter and that kind of demoralizes teams.”
The Raiders will now look to take that same defensive intensity to the Division 3 State Finals Saturday against the winner of tomorrow night's Central/West semifinal between Whitinsville Christian and Lenox at the DCU Center.
“The guys are so smart, their rotations are so good (on defense) that it looks like you’re doing a good job as a coach, but a lot of it is them,” said Watertown coach Steve Harrington. “They have such great basketball IQ that on the defensive end they just make up for each other, they rotate well, and they’re just ball hawks.”
“It’s the fourth game in a row in the tournament we’ve held someone in the 30’s. I think the difference was tonight we separated because we made some shots. Once we made some shots, it made it kind of difficult for Cardinal Spellman to get back in it.”
As a team, Watertown had 16 steals, making it difficult for the Cardinals to get anything going on the offensive end.
Joey Glynn lead the way for Cardinal Spellman with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“They knew what they had to do and they came and they did it,” said Spellman coach Mike Perry. “They’ve been here a couple times when they were younger, and they did a real nice job.”
“It wasn’t the best game in the world for us, but I have nothing but praise for my kids. Ya, you’re disappointed, but what they accomplished to this point, I really didn’t know if we could get here.”