High school boys basketball

Shooting star: Wirkala first Mariner boy to reach 1,000 career points

Oceanside notches lopsided, late-season road win over Lions
By Mark Haskell | Jan 30, 2019
Photo by: Mark Haskell Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala, right, stands with 2013 Oceanside High School graduate Kennadi Grover following the Mariners' 86-54 high school boys basketball win over host Belfast on Jan. 29. Wirkala scored his 1,000th career point against the Lions and, along with Grover, are the school's only 1,000-point scorers.

Belfast — The game was never in question, outcome never in doubt.

Belfast’s Jason Bartlett scored the game’s first basket quickly with a 3-pointer, but Oceanside scored the next 19 points as the focus of the Tuesday, Jan. 29 high school boys basketball contest quickly shifted to a game of “Will he or won’t he?”

The he in that statement referred to Mariner senior guard Cooper Wirkala, who, as he headed into Tuesday’s game, had amassed 979 career points and needed 21 more to become the first boy in Oceanside history to amass 1,000 career points.

Watch video below and see more photos below.

Wirkala, who had averaged more than 26 points per game this season, racked up 20 first-half points before the Lion defense held him without a basket for the final three minutes of the second quarter and the first three minutes of the third.

However, talented 6-foot 5-inch Wirkala corralled an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt with 4:54 left in the third quarter — and connected with his 1,000th and 1,001st career points — from the free-throw line.

The contest was stopped and Wirkala was awarded the game ball.

Wirkala ended the court affair with 24 points — and with 1,003 for his career — as the Mariners sailed to their 12th win by an 86-54 score.

Wirkala is the first Oceanside boy to score 1,000 and the second in school history. Kennadi Grover was the first player to hit the milestone in 2013.

Though, Wirkala is the first player to score all 1,000 points in an Oceanside uniform.

Oceanside formed in the fall of 2011 when Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School consolidated. More than half of Grover’s points were scored during her days as a Buccaneer.

Oceanside coach Matt Breen said, “It’s a great accomplishment for Coop.”

“He’s been great,” the coach said. “He’s an excellent talent with the height, versatility, ballhandling skills. He’s just a matchup nightmare for teams. He came on board as a freshman, he’s been with us for four years and each year he’s improved and gotten better.”

“It’s a great feeling,” said Wirkala, who committed to attend and play basketball collegiately for Colby College in Waterville on Nov. 25. “At the beginning of the season I wasn’t really sure if I was going to get it, but we kept getting closer and closer and I was just getting more excited and more excited. Now I’m just happy to get it over with to be honest.”

Trevor Reed also scored 21 points for the winners on Tuesday, while Jack Lombardo added 17; Amos Anderson, 14; Cam Kingsbury, four; and Drew Daggett and Zach Cody, two.

For Belfast, Bartlett led the way with 13 points, while Chris Kelley added 10; Grady Doolan, six; Luke Lightner, Chase Sanders, Tanner Veilleux and Wilder Magruder, four; and Dakota Payson, Andrew Abelon and Steven Friel, two.

The game was a far cry from the first between the squads when Oceanside eventually pulled out a 63-56 win in overtime over Belfast on Dec. 28 at Rockland.

Oceanside connected on five 3-pointers on Tuesday in the first quarter to help the visitors pull away early and hit 10 in the game. Reed and Wirkala pumped in four, while Lombardo added two.

Belfast hit four treys, two from Kelley and one from Bartlett and Payson.

The Mariners were 6-of-10 (60 percent) from the foul line, while the Lions were a perfect 4-of-4 (100 percent).

Bartlett gave the Lions a brief lead with a trey on the Lions’ first possession, but Wirkala and Reed together put on an offensive clinic for the rest of the stanza.

The duo started off with a combined four 3-pointers to give Oceanside a 12-3 lead, then moved their games inside the arc as Reed converted an offensive putback, Wirkala added a fast-break layup and two foul shots and Reed one free throw as the visitors took a 19-3 advantage.

Breen, who also scored 1,000 points as a player at Rockland District High School and again at the collegiate level for then Husson College (now Husson University) of Bangor, said accomplishments like that “doesn’t just happen by chance.”

“He’s put in his time in the gym,” he said of Wirkala. “If you stop by the [Flanagan Community Center] he’s down there putting up a couple hundred shots. He’s really worked on his game and that’s why he’s at the level he’s at.”

The hosts traded blows with Oceanside as Lightner and Wirkala traded hoops before a Payson 3-pointer cut Belfast’s deficit to 21-8.

After Lombardo and Kelley traded baskets, the Mariners went on a 9-0 run — seven of which came from Lombardo and two from Anderson — as the visitors continued to add to their lead.

Wirkala pumped in eight second-quarter points — including two straightaway 3-pointers, the second of which he banked in — and went into the locker room a point shy of 1,000.

Breen said he wanted Wirkala’s milestone “to come within the flow of the game,” but could feel the issue being forced a bit in the waning minutes of the second half.

“I just wanted them to concentrate on playing,” the coach said. “We were coming into a tough place to play. [Belfast] played us really tough at home and I wanted [our players] to just focus on the task at hand and just let it happen.”

Wirkala knew “it would come eventually” with only three games left in the regular season and echoed his coach’s thoughts as they were “just trying to get it in the flow of the game.”

“I was one point away at halftime so coming into the third quarter it was my goal to just get it over with so we could focus on the game,” he said.

Then, with 4:54 left in the stanza, Wirkala reached the milestone from the foul line with a pair of foul shots as Oceanside took a 50-29 lead.

Wirkala admitted he had not envisioned the thought of getting his 1,000th point at the charity stripe.

“I wanted to get it on a step-back three or something like that,” he said with a grin. “That would have been cool. But in the end, I’m just going to remember the 1,000, not the shot I got to get it.”

The Mariners maintained a sizable lead throughout the second half as Breen and Belfast coach Marty Messer put in reserves for the rest of the game with about six minutes to go.

Wirkala said he is happy to put the milestone behind him. Now, the Mariners can focus on the task at hand. Namely, for a deep run in the Class B North tournament, which begins in the coming weeks.

“We know we can beat any team if we just put in the effort and work hard,” the slender senior said. “I have a good feeling about the rest of the season. I think we can go far.”

In the Maine Principals’ Association Heal Point Standings for Class B North, Oceanside (12-4, 73.1481 points) is fourth, while Belfast (2-13, 4.6914 points) is 15th. Caribou (13-3, 139.9383 points) is first in the 16-team region. The top 11 teams qualify for the playoffs.

Oceanside at Belfast boys basketball
Belfast hosts Oceanside on Jan. 29 in high school boys basketball in Belfast. (Video by: Mark Haskell and Zack Miller)
Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Chris Kelley, left, and Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala vie for a rebound. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala, left, and Belfast's Luke Lightner. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Wilder Magruder. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Chris Kelley, left, and Oceanside's Amos Anderson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Chris Kelley, left, and Oceanside's Amos Anderson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Oceanside's Amos Anderson, Belfast's Jason Bartlett and Oceanside's Jack Lombardo and Trevor Reed. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Jack Lombardo, left, and Belfast's Chris Kelley. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Tanner Veilleux, left, and Oceanside's Drew Daggett. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Amos Anderson puts up a shot. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Amos Anderson, left, and Belfast's Tanner Veilleux. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Amos Anderson, left, and Belfast's Tanner Veilleux. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Belfast's Tanner Veilleux and Oceanside's Jaden Martin and Amos Anderson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Landdon Willis, left, and Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Landdon Willis, left, and Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside coach Matt Breen, left, and Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Belfast's Jason Bartlett and Chris Kelley and Oceanside's Jaden Martin. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Belfast's Dakota Payson and Jason Bartlett and Oceanside's Jack Lombardo. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Zach Cody, left, and Belfast's Wilder Magruder. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Wilder Magruder and Oceanside's Zach Cody. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Wilder Magruder, left, and Oceanside's Zach Cody. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Cam Kingsbury. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Oceanside's Drew Daggett and Zach Cody and Belfast's Steven Friel. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Oceanside's Drew Daggett and Zach Cody and Belfast's Steven Friel. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Dustin Cote. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Belfast's Steven Friel, left, and Oceanside's Zach Cody. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Oceanside's Cooper Wirkala. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Robert Jean | Jan 30, 2019 14:53

Congratulations, Cooper!!!



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