---- — NORTH READING — When it comes to Watertown High boys hoop, there is no mystique or aura — just the cold, hard facts.
“They’ve been the dominant force in the Division 3 North Regional for about the last 10 years,” said an elated Joe Casey Jr., whose North Reading Hornets ended Watertown’s year with a convincing 57-40 sectional quarterfinal win last night. “This is an exceptional team from a strong, strong conference. There’s no understating how big this win was for us and for our league.”
With half the town out to dinner at the Horseshoe, Joe Fish or Kitty’s and the other half crammed into a sold-out Kipnes Court, the Hornets celebrated win No. 21, still without a loss, advancing to the North semifinals Wednesday night (7 p.m.) at Burlington against the Wayland-Arlington Catholic winner.
“That’s just a great win for us, against a tremendously dangerous team,” added Casey.
Wednesday night’s game will be the Hornets’ first trip to the sectional semis since the 2000 team reached the North title game.
Playing in its first game in 11 days, North Reading showed no rust out of the gate with a 9-2 run and a 14-7 first-quarter.
Leading the way was Cape Ann League Player of the Year, John Mastascusa.
“He got a couple hoops early, and that helped us relax a little bit,” said Casey. “We’ve been playing exceptional team defense all year long, and that’s been the story. We wanted to play no-help defense and take away the three-point shot. They had to make 10 or 12 of them against Northeast. And what did they have, just one tonight?”
Meanwhile, the Hornets just cruised along. The advantage bulged to 27-15 at the break, before the senior Mastascusa sensed it was time to go for the kill.
“They’re very good, and I felt like we had to put them away early when we had the chance,” said Mastascusa, who dominated the second half and finished the night with a game-high 22 points.
Mastascusa spent much of the night in lock-step with Watertown assassin T. J. Hairston. It was a bit of a gamble by Casey, putting his star on a such a tough draw.
“I wanted it to be me and him one on one,” said Mastascusa. “I liked the challenge. He’s a very good player.”
All-Cape Ann League selection, Dan Hogan added 17 points for the winners, who built the margin all the way to 21 before Watertown closed to within 11, without coming any closer.
“That’s the league player of the year and the all-conference player stepping up like usual,” said Casey. “That was a nice night for each of them, and we are going to need more of it, not just from them, but from everyone.”
agateHed:North Reading 57, Watertown 40
agateText:Division 3 North quarterfinals
Watertown (40): Fulcar 4-0-9, Farrar 1-2-4, Fitzgerald 1-0-2, Hairston 9-4-22, Hoban 1-1-3. Totals 16-7-40
North Reading (57): Hogan 6-4-17, Lipani 1-0-2, Mastascusa 7-8-22, Capozzoli 1-1-3, Fitzgerald 2-2-6, Wade 2-0-5, O’Brien 1-0-2, McDonough 0-0-0, Maiola 0-0-0. Totals 20-15-57
3-pointers: W — Fulcar; NR — Hogan Wade
Next game: Wednesday at Burlington, 7 p.m. in Division 3 North semifinals vs. Arlington-Catholic Wayland winner
agateText:Watertown (13-9): 7 8 16 9 — 40
North Reading (21-0): 14 13 17 13 — 57