LOWELL – Watertown High’s game 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 the South champion 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.”