Tourney Loss Aside, Medway Boys Quintet Had a Special Season

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Medway High boys’ basketball reached great heights this year, just falling short of the sectional title, but players now know the hard work needed, and they’ll be a force next season.
Issue Date: 
April, 2019
Article Body: 

Here’s some advice for fans of the Medway High boys basketball team — don’t let the loss to Westboro in the Division 2 Central Sectional Tournament lessen your regard or your respect for what the Mustangs achieved in what was a remarkable season.
There’s no doubt that the 73-39 loss to Westboro was a shock to the system, especially after Medway led, 26-25, at halftime and by 30-25 early in the third quarter. What Medway coach Eric Copeland said after the game puts the loss in perspective. “We got hit by a buzz-saw,’’ he said. “The better team won.’’
Westboro was a senior-laden group, its three guards could score and its bench was effective. And, during the Rangers’ emphatic 48-13 run in the second half, forward Dominic Casparriello poured in 16 of his 21 points. “It felt like they shot 70 percent in that half,’’ Copeland noted.
As strange as this may sound, the Mustangs should be proud. Proud of the way their season started and finished. Their overall record of 19-5 included a 10-game winning streak, the championship of the Walpole Holiday Tournament, the Tri Valley League’s Small Division title and two decisive triumphs (Burncoat and Groton-Dunstable) in the Sectional tourney.
“We accomplished some things, because the kids bonded well and core values were embraced,’’ Copeland said. “The boys realized how hard they had to work to get results and they accepted accountability. They fully understood what our staff stressed — the next drill, the next practice, the next possession, the next game. That philosophy put us in a position to overcome any adversity.’’
The Walpole tourney during the Christmas break provided a glimpse that good things could be on the horizon. The Mustangs defeated a traditionally strong Bay State League squad in Walpole, then won the tourney by downing Scituate, which later advanced to the Division 2 South Sectional semifinals.
After a regular-season loss to Dover-Sherborn, which won the Division 3 Sectional, the Mustangs rolled to 10 straight wins, one of which included a road victory over Bellingham that clinched the TVL crown.
“Eleven of our 12 players said at the start of the season that winning the league title was a goal,’’ Copeland recalled. “We beat Bellingham which had a senior group and some good sophomores. The league has quality teams. Five of the six teams in our division were in the playoffs. The kids displayed an unselfish style and did the little things that lead to success.’’
Then came the sectional where Medway posted a pair of decisive victories. Burncoat was defeated, 63-32, and the Mustangs topped Groton-Dunstable, 52-43, before bowing to Westboro.
“Our team did exceed expectations,’’ Copeland said. “It was a group that cared for each other and understood that being mediocre was not okay. They were upset after the Westboro game and that’s because they had invested their emotions and their physical ability into a long season. It’s supposed to hurt when it’s over. For me, I was pleased at how coachable they were and how willing they were to be pushed.’’
Copeland admitted that two early-season victories over Dedham and Norton provided a clue that the Mustangs had a special group. And, that pair of three-point triumphs was evidence that Medway would have no trouble adjusting or transitioning to a new coach. “Dedham was the defending TVL Small champion and Norton was the defending TVL Large Division champ,’’ Copeland noted.
When he took the coaching reins, Copeland listed four goals he was hoping would be achieved. He wanted to build a program that was respected for its work ethic; he wanted to have a strong relationship with the youth program; a TVL Small Division title was a third objective; and qualifying for the playoffs was the fourth. Every one of those goals was achieved.
Copeland, who’s coached as an assistant at Medway and Franklin, has a message for Medway fans going forward. It’s about expectations. “We’ve got a capable core group returning,’’ he said. “But, they’ll be a target on our backs. We have to manage expectations, and I hope that in November our guys understand the challenge ahead. Expectations will definitely be high.’’