DALTON, Mass — A double-digit comeback in the fourth quarter propelled the Wahconah Regional High School boys basketball team to a 58-53 win over Manchester-Essex.
"They did a great job; they are well-coached and well prepared," said Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher on Manchester-Essex's play. "They took us out of our rhythm early, but we were able to pull it up."
Brody Calvert led Wahconah, scoring 22 points and making eight free throws, while Jesse Chapman scored 16 and Pat McLaughlin scored 14. Cade Furse led Manchester-Essex in scoring, with 17 points and five made 3-pointers.
Fourth-seeded Wahconah moves on to play No. 1 Randolph in the Division 4 State Semi-Finals on Wednesday evening at Worcester State.
Manchester-Essex started the game well, building a seven-point lead over Wahconah during the first, with a 14-21 score to start the second quarter. While the hosts briefly managed to tie the game at 25, the lead for Manchester-Essex was five at the end of the half.
Belcher said Wahconah had to adjust the defense in response to Manchester-Essex's shooting. He said the tide began to turn when his team started defending well and taking the other team out of its rhythm.
"We had to extend it out a little bit, but then they did a nice job of countering that by hitting us with a couple of high-lows and finishing next to the rim. So credit to them," Belcher said. "We had to, kind of, pick our poison at that point. We knew they could shoot it."
The defense played a significant role for both teams in the third quarter, with neither team hitting double-digit points. While Wahconah managed to tie the game again at 33 in the quarter, the team's deficit was six going into the final eight minutes of play, with a 36-42 score.
With five minutes and thirty-seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, Manchester-Essex held an 11-point lead, with the game seemingly in control. Wahconah, however, managed to cut the lead to just one point by the three-minute mark because of strong play on both ends of the court.
By the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Wahconah took a 52-51 lead and held Manchester-Essex to just two points in the final two minutes to take the victory. Belcher gave Calvert's strong play credit as being instrumental in the comeback.
"That's who you want to have the ball in their hands at the end of the day," he said. "He gutted it out too as a junior captain. He really stepped up for us today."
Belcher also credited all of the team's younger players for stepping up in the win.
"Our seniors are the heart and soul of this team, no doubt. But these younger guys have really embraced a big role," he said. "In some ways, we played last year, but it wasn't the same, right? So every guy on this roster played this year as their first time in the postseason. So the way they responded is just awesome."