WORCESTER – Whitinsville Christian coach Jeffrey Bajema normally has his team run a man-to-man defense.
But Bajema knew his large lineup, led by 6-foot-9 center Hans Miersma, would have trouble containing Watertown’s smaller, quicker guards unless he switched to a zone scheme.
The gamble was large, Bajema said. His team rarely plays zone, and Watertown found the holes quickly, jumping out to a seven-point lead. But the coach stuck with his decision and rode it all the way to a title.
The Crusaders’ crushing zone forced Watertown into numerous contested shots, while Miersma scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Whitinsville Christian (23-2) captured the Division 3 state championship at the DCU Center with a 42-36 win over Watertown (19-6).
"The last two days, that’s all we’ve been doing in practice,” Bajema said. “Running the zone. Then they come out and go up 9-2 and it’s like, ‘well that’s not working.’”
But Bajema stuck with it and watched his zone suffocate a high-powered Watertown attack. Eastern Mass. leading scorer Marco Coppola finished with 15 points, well below his 26.4 average. Coppola had 11 in the second half, and Watertown coach Steve Harrington said his senior was forced to do too much.
“We put a lot of pressure on Marco,” Harrington said. “See, Marco not only has to do some scoring for us, but he’s the one creating other shots for the other guys. I don’t know how many turnovers he had, but the ball was in his hand a lot.”
After more than two minutes of scoreless play to start the game, Watertown’s Cory Donahue went on a shooting streak, draining three consecutive three-pointers to give the Red Raiders a 9-2 lead.
But that was the biggest lead Watertown would have. They watched as Miersma quickly developed his post game and led the Whitinsville comeback.
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