The Chelsea High School basketball team put together a splendid 25-point fourth quarter to pull away from a pesky Wakefield High team and claim a 60-47 victory Tuesday night in the MIAA State Tournament at the Sol Nechtem Gymnasium.
Cesar Castro scored a game-high 24 points and added 11 assists while freshman Sammy Mojica (11 points) and junior Felix Crespo (10 points) also excelled for the Red Devils, who improved their record to 18-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals against Reading (Saturday at 7 p.m. at Chelsea High).
Head coach Jay Seigal and assistant coaches Lenny Brand, Mike Triant, and Jack Halas had to make some in-game adjustments after 6-foot-7-inch center Mark Reddick got into early foul trouble. Seigal called on 6-foot-4-inch senior Craig Szalkowski and he delivered a key effort off the bench, scoring four points and playing tough defense against Wakefield’s burly center, Anthony Fabiano.
Point guard Troy Crossley, junior forward Eli Ortiz, and the electrifying freshman Mojica stepped up as Castro struggled to find his range in the first half.
Reddick did make his presence felt in the fourth quarter, finishing with eight points as Chelsea unraveled Wakefield’s offense with some tenacious, full-court defensive pressure.
The game was a see-saw affair for the first three quarters as Chelsea trailed 23-19 at the half before taking a 35-34 lead after three quarters.
Chelsea showed its character in the fourth quarter, with Castro leading the charge. The 6-foot-guard consistently drove to the hoop and also found open teammates for crisp passes, including a no-look sizzler to Mojica for a back-door layup.
Castro helped Chelsea lock up the game by hitting his free throws down the stretch (8-of-13 for the game).
Wakefield coach Brad Simpson said Chelsea’s senior leadership (Castro, Reddick, and Szalkowski) made a difference in the contest.
“We lost to a very good team with great senior leadership,” said Simpson. “Cesar [Castro] and [Mark] Reddick and the underclassmen really melded. It took them awhile to get their game going, but when they turned it up, we just couldn’t turn it up to match them.”
Seigal said the key to victory was settling down after being overly exuberant in the first quarter and finishing with a tremendous fourth quarter of basketball.
“I feel our kids really mentally and physically stepped it up in the fourth quarter to pull away at the end. We took good shots and didn’t force the issue when we had the lead and we played great defense throughout the whole game.”
Next up for Chelsea is Reading High School (16-5), who defeated Beverly, 69-67, in its opening game.