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Boys basketball is ready to take on Saugus in their first tournament game tonight

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Head coach David First gives the Wildcats a pep talk in their gritty 65-54 win over Acton-Boxborough as the team secures their first win of the year. PHOTO/ Joy Saini Groff

By Matthew Garfinkel

   Fans are ready to liven up the cats’ den tonight for the first boys’ basketball tournament game against Saugus. The bleachers should be packed for tip-off at 7.

   The Wildcats trounced Martha’s Vineyard 77-68 February 20 in their final regular season game, finishing the season strong with a 20-3 record. Seeded third, the team was named co-DCL Small Champs for the first time since 2009.

      Head coach David First said his expectations are set high for a deep tournament run.  Along with this year’s senior captains Jared Groff, Cam Peddie and Doug Dahl, he said last year’s leading scorer sophomore Kyle Murphy is key in hitting baskets.

   “Having three of our best players back as seniors makes a big difference. Having Kyle Murphy a year older helps as well,” First said.

   Murphy, who averaged 18 points per game last year for the Wildcats, plays year-round for the AAU team Expressions Elite.

   Murphy was only one player on the roster who led last year’s squad to their 14-7 record, hosting a home playoff match-up for the first time in 18 years

  But First’s plans on the

court were different for the Wildcats this year.

   “I expected the team to be more aggressive defensively and expect the team to do a better job of getting to the basket and preventing other teams from scoring,” First said.

    Since this year’s roster has five returning players, First said he believes the team’s maturity will help the Wildcats in tournament.

   Preparation for this season immediately began after last year’s heartbreaking playoff loss to Arlington Catholic March 1 on the Wildcat court. Looking ahead, the team competed in a fall league and ran regular off-season practices.

      The Wildcats  tireless offseason competition was  tested as this year’s schedule posed a real challenge.  First included D1 schools Xaverian, Wellesley, Westford Academy, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin to give his squad a taste of the competition they will see in tournament.

   The Dual County League schedule is a big step up for a school the size of Weston who already plays most of their games against bigger schools. By adding these schools to the Wildcats’ schedule, First said the team will be prepared for a deep state championship run.

  “The Dual County League and this tough schedule should do a great job preparing us to win a state championship. That is our goal,” First said

The team has confidence in First to guide them to a State Championship.

    Junior Noah Cate said that when he was a freshman the team was comprised of three junior captains, several sophomores and only a few freshman. Cate said the team’s consistent improvement from a budding young roster has led them to be poised for a deep State Tournament run.

   “I’ve been on the team the past two years and made the State Tournament both times. I believe this time will be different when we get to the State Tournament. We have the confidence to take the next step when we get there,” Cate said.

   Praise for First comes easily from his players.

   “Coach First is undoubtedly the most intense coach I have ever had. His passion for winning is contagious and has helped bring Weston basketball to a new level,” Peddie said.

   Murphy said First’s dedication is unique.

   “His passionate and tough attitude and love for the game of basketball is unlike any of my coaches ever,” Murphy said.

   With First leading the way, the Wildcats have the potential for a D3 State Tournament run.

 

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Boys basketball is ready to take on Saugus in their first tournament game tonight