MELROSE — Alexis Doherty knew Tuesday night had the potential to be great for the Melrose girls’ basketball program.
Senior night, a chance to avenge a 1-point loss to Wakefield in mid-January, and an opportunity to clinch the Middlesex League Freedom title.
The senior captain and her Red Raiders teammates checked off all three items by outlasting Wakefield, 65-55.
“I was anxious the entire day,” said Doherty, who scored 10 points for Melrose (14-3, 12-3). “Then I thought, ‘This is just a game, go out and play,’ and that settled the team down a lot.”
After Doherty opened the contest with a long jumper, Wakefield went on a 13-2 run to open a 9-point cushion.
Junior guard Samantha Smith came off the Melrose bench to provide a spark with consecutive steals, leading to buckets by freshman Sam Dewey (13 rebounds) and junior Lily Cunningham (game-high 17 points). The Red Raiders used a 9-0 spurt midway through the second quarter to tie the game at 17.
There were 12 ties and lead changes late into the third quarter, when Doherty fueled an 8-0 run for a 43-35 Melrose lead.
“[We] are just more of a complete team [than at the beginning of the season],” said Melrose coach Bill Hirschfeld. “They all stick together, support each other, and they really put it together tonight.”
Wakefield coach Jason Pavey said Melrose “stepped up, they made shots. We had some opportunities, but they definitely made some adjustments.”
Wakefield (13-4, 11-4) battled back, closing the deficit to 5, but Melrose responded, extending its lead to double digits for the first time less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
“I remember growing up and looking up [to see the Middlesex championship banners in the gym],” Doherty.
The most recent came in 2010. Now 2018 can be added.
“It’s amazing, I just wanted it so bad,” she said.