Watertown’s methodology is clear-cut: get the ball in point guard Cesar Fulcar’s hands.
“That’s how we play — we’re going to live and die with that, with Cesar making decisions for us,” Watertown coach Steve Harrington said. “He’s our floor general, as he has been all year.”
It’s been a prescription for success, as Fulcar’s confidence and basketball IQ give the Red Raiders time and chances. And it helped Watertown roar past Middlesex League foe Stoneham, 48-34, in the Division 3 North final at the Tsongas Center Saturday.
“It’s something I take pride in, leading the team out there,” said Fulcar, a 5-foot-11-inch senior who finished with 15 points. “I’m helping make sure we’re in all of our sets, doing our plays correctly, and making sure we’re getting good shots every time.”
The Red Raiders (18-5) return to TD Garden for the first time since the 2010-11 season, when they finished as the state’s Division 3 runner-up, losing to Whitinsville, 42-36. Watertown will play South champion Cardinal Spellman Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Stoneham (13-11) held the potent Watertown offense in check during the first quarter, holding the Red Raiders to an 11-10 lead, but Fulcar and backcourt teammate Brendan Hoban (13 points) proved too much. Watertown opened a 13-point lead (27-14) by halftime, and kept pulling away, jumping ahead by 20 (42-22) after three quarters.
“We went to the zone in the second half to try to limit [Cesar’s] ability to isolate shots, and it worked for a couple of minutes, but they have four other kids who can shoot the ball, too,” said Stoneham coach Brian Caira, whose team was soundly beaten in the teams’ regular-season matchups, 61-32 Jan. 10, and 72-40 Feb. 7.
The Red Raiders defense gave Stoneham fits, with sloppy ball-handling adding to Stoneham’s woes. Fulcar took advantage of one steal with 2:35 left in the first half, driving down the court and taking care of a layup to give Watertown a 27-14 lead.
Any remaining hope for Stoneham was lost toward the end of the third quarter, when Watertown’s Kevin DiPietrantonio and Fulcar, courtesy of outstanding passing by the Red Raiders, hit back-to-back 3-pointers, giving Watertown a commanding 42-20 lead.
“We were able to utilize our strengths in speed and quickness,” Harrington said. “As any team does, I think we thrive on playing from ahead. After the 3-pointers, and with our ball-handlers, we were able to run the clock out at that point.”
Cardinal Spellman 45, Westport 34 — Sensing the moment, Cardinal Spellman outscored Westport, 13-5, in the third quarter of a grind-it-out game to win the Division 3 South title at UMass-Boston.
Cardinal Spellman had knocked off defending South champion Martha’s Vineyard in overtime in the semifinals Wednesday. Spellman heads to TD Garden Tuesday for a matchup against North winner Watertown in the EMass final.
The Cardinals headed into the locker room at halftime nursing a 20-18 lead, and clamped down on defense in the third quarter.
“If you miss a shot, play defense and get things going on that end to see if we can get some easy shots,” Spellman coach Michael Perry said. “I thought the weak-side help was good. We did some half-court trapping that got some steals. Little things like that help you to convert on the other end.”
Senior guard Ryan Roach scored one-third of the Cardinals’ points with a game-high 15 points and added seven assists. With about a minute left in the third quarter, Roach swatted a shot off the backboard, got the rebound, and took it coast-to-coast for a pull-up 7-footer in the lane, epitomizing the Cardinals’ second-half effort.
“It wasn’t as fast-paced as we usually play,” Roach said. “We knew we had to come out in the third quarter and play really aggressive. I’m usually a facilitator, but down the stretch we needed some points, so I took it to the basket.”
While Roach orchestrated the offense, senior center Brian Donohoe cleaned up the defensive glass, gobbling up 17 rebounds and ending most of the Wildcats’ possessions in the second half with a timely board.
“He’s a beast down low,” Roach said. “He just plays with so much heart.”
Seniors Austin Joseph and Joe Crane also played their part in the victory. Joseph drilled four 3-pointers for 12 points and Crane added 10 points inside for the Cardinals.
Junior forward Chad Willard posted 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats. Senior forward Richard Hartnett added 9 points and seven rebounds for Westport.