BURLINGTON — Senior guard Jaleel Bell may not live in Wayland but, at this time of the year, he pretty much owns the town.
The 6-foot-2 METCO student from Boston certainly “owned” North Reading yesterday in the Division 3 North semifinals at Burlington High School, scoring 34 points to pace Wayland in a 64-48 victory, almost single-handedly handing the Hornets (21-1) their first loss of the season.
Prior to the game, the Wayland fans shouted “MVP, MVP” when Bell was introduced, and he then went out and showed that he is more than worthy of the tag.
The Hornets put their best defenders on Bell throughout the game and tried a little zone, but nothing worked for long. He hit short jump shots, sliced down the lane or on the baseline for nifty lay-ins and also had several putbacks among his 13 field goals.
“He was on our radar but we just couldn’t stop him,” said North Reading coach Joe Casey. “Whenever they needed it, he took over, and that’s what good players do.”
Compounding that problem was that, except for an impressive second quarter, the Hornets probably had their worst shooting game of the season.
North Reading was 7 of 13 from the floor in the second quarter, during which the Hornets surged to a 29-25 halftime lead. But they were 9 of 50 for the other three frames, many of the misses coming from short range.
The start of the game signaled things to come as North Reading missed its first six shots, including four from within five feet, and didn’t score a field goal for the first three and a half minutes of play.
Trailing 15-8 after one, North Reading got its act together in the second quarter. With John Mastascusa scoring six points, the Hornets showed the balance that made them so successful as six players scored in a 21-10 second quarter that gave them a 29-25 halftime lead,
Carl Lipani hit a 3-pointer to end the first half and he drilled another early in the third quarter, pushing the North Reading lead to seven, 36-29. But then the roof fell in.
Bell scored 10 points in a 15-2 Wayland run to end the third quarter and the Warriors didn’t let up at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring the first eight points to take a commanding 52-38 lead with four minutes remaining.
“We clearly came out of the gates nervous and we were tight for a lot of the game,” said Casey. “But I don’t think the score reflects how close the game was for the most part.”
Mastascusa and Tom Hogan led North Reading with 11 points, one more than Dan Fitzgerald.
Even in defeat, it was tough not to reflect back on a great season in which the Hornets tied the 1977 team for the best record in school history.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of and we won’t be hanging our heads,” said Casey. “We lost to a better team tonight, but our seniors put us on the map.”
Wayland 64, North Reading 48
agateText:Division 3 North Semifinals
agateText:Wayland (64):@zzAgate:agateText: Jaleel Bell 13 8-14 34, Cameron Chin 1 0-0 3, Daniel Karp 0 0-2 0, Harrison Leavitt 4 0-0 8, Robert Williams 0 0-2 0, Mark Bonner 6 1-2 13, Brian Garcia 1 0-0 2, Kurt Stroube 0 2-2 2, Gregory Karpacz 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 11-22 64
agateText:North Reading (48):@zzAgate:agateText: Michael O’Brien 1 0-0 2, Evan Wade 0 0-0 0, John Mastascusa 4 3-4 11, Dan Fitzgerald 4 1-2 10, Tom Hogan 4 0-0 11, Chris Capozzolli 1 3-3 5, Colby Maiola 0 0-0 0, Carl Lipani 2 1-2 7, Scott McDonough 0 2-2 2. Totals 16 10-13 48
agateText:3-pointers:@zzAgate:agateText: W — Chin; NR — Fitzgerald, Hogan 3, Lipani 2
agateText:Wayland (19-4):@zzAgate:agateText: 15 10 19 20 — 64
agateText:North Reading (21-1):@zzAgate:agateText: 8 21 9 10 — 48