Boys’ Basketball trumps St. John’s in first round of State Championships, 41-40

Srinithi Raj, James McDermott, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Co-Sports Editor

WA’s starting five is introduced before the first round of state tournament. (James McDermott)

Marked by stifling defense, Westford Academy Boys’ Basketball took down St. John’s Prep (SJP) in the first round of the State Tournament, 41-40 on March 4. 

The first quarter was a hard-fought, low-scoring, defensive battle. Both teams came out of the gate with a lot of energy by deflecting passes, stealing the ball, and blocking shots left and right.

Senior Griffin Eddy drove to the basket for a layup to kick-off the game. SJP answered with another two-pointer, which was later offset by WA senior Luke Krikorian.

As the quarter went on, SJP had WA on their heels on both ends of the court. After Westford’s Will Bramanti converted on the offensive end, SJP responded with a run of their own to extend their lead to 15-6 to end the first quarter.

Back to back threes from Eddy and Bramanti cut SJP’s lead down to five points, making it a 19-14 ballgame. Multiple buckets from Eddy as the quarter continued helped keep WA right in the game.

However, this offensive energy died down as the quarter went on. Missed free throws contributed to the team struggling to put more points on the board. Yet, the Ghosts bolstered their defense and also prevented many shots from falling for SJP, resulting in the half ending with a score of 22-17, SJP.

Giving insight on the first half, senior captain Eddy cites how the game was a tall order. 

“The game was tough. [SJP was] a really tough team, and they were really physical,” Eddy said. 

Paralleling the first two quarters, the third leg of the game oscillated in which the team had control of the ball. Senior Jake Aylward made a free throw for WA to kick off the third quarter, but soon SJP’s went on a run consisting of consecutive twos and a three. 

After a back and forth start to the third quarter, Voruganti, Eddy, Bramanti, and co-captain Ethan Ewing all exploited weaknesses in SJP’s defense. WA got within two points of SJP, but WA lost momentum nearing the end of the quarter, following a foul on Ewing. SJP began to surge ahead, extending its lead to 10 points, as the third quarter ended with a score of 35-25.

Especially since WA had never seen two of SJP’s main scorers on film, Coach Bramanti explained how the team faced difficulty in overtaking the opponent’s offense. 

“St. John’s messed us up a bit when they started two players that we did not see in the film. Not that they were factors, but when you plan ahead and things aren’t exactly as you think they should be, it gets a bit frustrating, but the kids stepped up and didn’t let it bother them,” Coach Bramanti said. “We knew St. John’s was going to do most of its damage inside, we just didn’t expect our guys to struggle scoring so much.” 

WA exploded onto the scene to begin the fourth quarter, going on a 10-0 run. Threes from Aylward and Voruganti electrified the crowd, giving WA every source of momentum.

Voruganti scores a clutch bucket during overtime. The Ghosts won the first round of the State Championships. (Srinithi Raj)

“The first and third quarter, I would say that on offense it was on the lower side of what we are usually capable of doing. Then in the fourth, the energy switched with the crowd and we just had an amazing flow and played top-tier. On defense, we played our hearts out the whole game,” Will Bramanti said. 

Although WA missed a few key scoring opportunities down the stretch, the team made another clutch bucket with a two-pointer from Aylward, notching the score at 37-37, sending the game into overtime.

Tensions were high as SJP hit a three to kick off overtime, but Voruganti and Eddy both responded with twos of their own, giving WA their first lead of the game 41-40 until time expired, sending WA to the next round of the state tournament.

Appreciative of his team’s resilience and the support of the crowd, Coach Bramanti is proud of the team’s accomplishment and hopeful the team continues to advance through the tournament. 

“Crazy. Awesome. Tremendous. The crowd was off the charts, the whole night was fantastic, and the kids played hard with resilience and toughness. It was amazing to see, but not surprising,” Coach Bramanti said. 

Echoing Coach Bramanti, Ewing credits the team’s success to the teamwork among the players.

“Everyone who was on the court was contributing and doing everything that we needed from them,” Ewing said.

The Ghosts will play at Newton in the next round of the tournament on March 9, time TBA.