WORCESTER -- It has been a magical season of sorts for the Parker Charter Panthers, who achieved a host of firsts in its 17 year history. The boys' basketball program under the tutelage of head coach Scott Wick won its first-share of the Colonial Athletic League title, its first playoff game and on Monday night at the Kneller Center on the campus of Clark University, the Panthers can add Division 4 CMass. semifinalist to their resume.
Wick wondered how long the ride would last following his team's quarter final victory over Douglas Friday night.
The answer is it would not, as Parker Charter fell to Hopedale, 44-34.
"Both of my bigs picked up three fouls in the first-quarter," Wick said after the loss. "The officials were calling it extremely tight in the first-quarter. In addition to our offense going through those guys, they allow us to have an advantage inside on the boards. We had some rebounding issues beginning, middle of the second quarter. The refs tried to make up for it as the calls started to go our way in the second half. But, at that point, we are trying to catch up from 16 points down."
Parker Charter senior center Kyle Dokus netted the game's first points on a reverse layup from the left side with 7:30 remaining in the first. However, Hopedale's William Leke (10 points,six rebounds) answered down the other end with a layup, which was followed by a splash-down three-pointer by junior guard Kevin Lynch(10 points) to make it,5-2, Hopedale.
Parker Charter senior Jesse Levines (team-high nine points) and classmate Will Bryant(Eight points, five rebounds), scored on back-to-back layups to regain the lead, 6-5. Hopedale rode the steady hand of Kevin Bresciani late in the quarter. Bresciani accounted for seven of the Blue Raiders' nine points in the final two minutes. Hopedale held a 14-8 lead at the end of one.
The Blue Raiders opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run behind a pair of three point baskets by Sam Lawrence to stretch its lead to 26-12 late in the half. Parker Charter scored just eight points in the second with baskets from Akhil Pingali, Levines, Kyle McNamara and Bryant. Parker found itself in foul trouble with three players who had two-or-more fouls.
The Panthers trailed 30-16 at the half. Parker Charter's defense held Hopedale to six points in the third quarter, but it transversely only scored six points as well. Trailing by 14 points at the start of the fourth, the calls started to shift in the favor of Parker Charter. Levines netted a pull-up jump-shot in the lane to bring the Panthers within 12, but Lynch answered for Hopedale with a pair of layups.
Senior forward Tim Flanagan hit a pair of free-throws and a clutch three-point shot in the left corner to trim Hopedale's lead to 11, 40-29. Parker Charter forced a Hopedale turnover, and Wick burned a timeout as Levines brought the ball across court. On the ensuing inbounds from the right side, Levines spotted up on the elbow for a three-pointer and connected to bring Parker Charter within eight.
Levines scored on the ensuing Parker Charter drive to make it a two possession game at 40-34. However, that would be as close as Parker Charter would get as its season ended on the hardwood of Clark University.
"They've come a long way to make those in-game decisions better for a majority of the game, but today we didn't make good decisions in the first half," he said. "We held a very offensive team to under 45 points -- that's been something we have hung our hats on all year long, we let our defense control the game.
I thought we were pretty good defensively. That team has scored 50-60 points on some of the teams in our league. We thought if we played a balanced game inside-and-out, we could win, but we didn't do that until the second half, and it was too late. We have only lost two second halves in 24 games all year. We have always been able to play well in the second half, but tonight we were just too far behind to make a comeback."