WC survives W'Town to win D3 state title

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The trophy room at the Bajema household just got a new piece of hardware added to the collection.

Taylor Bajema had a team-high 14 points to help head coach Jeff Bajema and Whitinsville Christian (23-2) grab the Div. 3 boys state championship with a 42-36 win over Watertown (19-6) on Saturday at the DCU Center.

The elder Bajema was an assistant coach on the Crusaders team that last won the state title in 2005. He said he stepped down as head coach that season because he didn’t want to coach two of his sons, Mitch and Brady, on the same team.

But now having three of his sons holding trophies, plus his as the assistant and a head coach, is something special for the whole family.

“I don’t have anymore kids,” said Jeff Bajema with a wide smile. “They all have a title, so that was kind of cool today to have Taylor be on a title team too.”

Taylor was in sixth-grade when he watched his brother Mitch fuel the Crusaders six years ago, and he was looking forward to having the most recent bragging rights at the Bajema dinner table.

“I’m probably going to rub it in his face a little, but he’s got one too,” said Taylor Bajema. “He’s got one too, so there’s not much I can do.”

The Crusaders game plan coming in to the game was to feed the 6-foot-9-inch Hans Miersma the ball as many times as possible. But the Raiders had other ideas.

Watertown head coach Stephen Harrington unleashed heavy pressure in the backcourt, which never allowed Miersma to get set on the low block. The attacking press also forced the Crusaders to turn the ball over 22 times in the game.

“They full court press you and they are really quick guards,” said Taylor Bajema. “They get up in your face and they just try to annoy you the whole time. They do a great job of it.”

In the first quarter, the Crusaders had more turnovers (eight) than they had points (seven).

But for as poorly as they did holding on to the ball, they made up for it with its defense of the Red Raiders 3-point shooters. After Watertown got three first quarter three-pointers from Cory Donahue, the Red Raiders only hit three more for the rest of the game.

Harrington’s bunch finished 6-for-39 from behind the arc and only finished 5-for-15 from the rest of the field. Marco Coppola, one of the premier shooters in Eastern Mass., finished with 15 points and only hit one three in 13 tries.

“We thought about going man, but they are so much smaller than us and it would probably be hard matchups on the perimter,” said Miersma. “We decided to play zone and it worked really well. We were always spotting (Coppola) to try and make sure we knew where he was on the court.”

The cold shooting didn’t keep the Raiders out of the game completely. Watertown was within four with less tan a minute left to go in the game, but Peter Koopman, who threw away a pass on the previous possession, jumped path of a Coppola pass to help take home the win.

“Their length makes you shoot it quicker,” said Harrington. “If we hit a few more maybe it would have been a different game.”