Photo: Jake Pollack under the basket vs. Melrose.
The Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball teams are off to their North Sectional semifinals against Middlesex League rivals Woburn High on Thursday, March 8 after the both Marauder squads dominated their quarterfinals over the past weekend.
The doubleheader – the girls’ play at 5:30 p.m. and the boys’ at 7:30 p.m. at Burlington High School – was pushed back a day due to Wednesday’s pending Nor’easter.
Tan’s career night leads Girls over last year’s champs Andover Saturday.
Just a little bit of self-confidence went a long way for Marauders’ junior guard Megan Tan on Saturday, March 3, against defending Division 1 North titleholders Andover High as Tan scored a career-high 27 points including three from beyond the arc as Belmont eased past the Golden Eagles, 68-46, in the Division 1 North sectional quarterfinals played in Belmont.
One would think that a three-year starter and mainstay of Belmont’s smothering defense would be at ease on the court. But Tan said this season she’s been struggling with mostly her shot selection.
“Throughout the year I’ve kinda struggled with my confidence. [Belmont Head] Coach (Melissa) Hart and I talked about it a lot. So today I had my head in the game,” said Tan after the game.
“I was playing like I wanted to play tonight and it worked out,” said Tan, who also contributed two assists and three steals for baskets resulting in six points.
But from Hart’s view, the victory was achieved by more than just giving the ball to Tan and watching her score.
“Everyone played really well. It wasn’t one of those one player games. It was a team win,” said Hart
Tan (a layup and the first of her threes) and Belmont got off to a quick start, up 7-0. Andover came back behind junior guard Gia Bramanti (6 in the quarter, 12 for the game), who at 6 feet towers over Tan who was covering her on defense, with the first quarter ending with the Marauders up two, 15-13 with Tan collecting 9 points in the stanza.
Up 18-16 early in the second, Belmont began grinding the game out, play by play, starting off with a trey from senior Jenny Call (6 points), the team’s career leader in threes. Junior Jane Mahon (6 points), Belmont’s sixth man, hit her trademark short jumper followed by workhorse senior forward Greta Propp’s layup (2 of her 10 points), Mahon again scoring in close with senior point guard Carly Christofori (6 points and a team-leading 6 rebounds) spinning in for two of her six points and suddenly Belmont was up 1o, 29-19, with 2:40 left in the half.
On the other end of the court, junior center Jess Giorgio (9 points) blocked a Bramanti runner while the team’s pressing pressure caused a traveling call on Andover on the next possession.
“Our defense frustrated them, and that was the real difference,” said Hart. Tan’s second three would give her 15 while the defense held the Golden Eagles to six in the quarter as the Marauders led at the break 34-19.
Belmont continued pressing its advantage in the second half as it steadily opened up an ever-increasing lead. The final quarter resembled a rec league game as the defense took a seat on the sidelines.
As for meeting co-Middlesex League champs Woburn (19-2) for the third time this season – each team winning at home – “it will be a game of wills,” said Hart.
“It’s kind of nice to play them again because one of us can put this debate to rest. Hopefully, it’s us,” said Hart.
Slow start, fast finish as Boys’ dismantle Melrose
Trailing 11-0 to Middlesex League-rivals Melrose High after the first three minutes was not how Belmont High’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard was expecting from his team which just dismantled Charlestown High, 72-47, on Feb. 27.
The Raiders arrived at the Wenner Field House looking for its second big playoff win after upsetting five-seed Masconomet earlier in the week and came out against the Marauders’ going right at the basket while deploying a 2-3 zone that cramped Belmont’s offense.
But for Pritchard, the optimum word during the Raiders’ early run wasn’t “panic” but “patience.”
“It was scary. They were really prepared to play, and we had to change things defensively to get it going. We took some chances, and it worked out,” said the longtime coach as his team proved their standing as the fourth seed by dispatching Melrose, 72-52, on Sunday night before the Academy Awards.
A driving hoop by junior all-star Danny Yardemian put Belmont onto the scoreboard and senior forward Will Ellet first of five threes cut the lead to 11-5.
While Yardemian and Ellet (each finishing with 17 points) were taking their game outside, the dirty work under the basket was assigned to senior center Jake Pollack that once again was looking up to a taller opposite center. Pollack’s presence came with a pair of offensive rebounds and a putback basket to tie the score at 13 with less than a minute remaining in the first. The quarter ended with Yardemian acting as a teacher, schooling the Melrose defender with a step back jumper to give Belmont its first lead of the game, 15-13.
“We were resilient in the first quarter. A lot of teams can go down and get it into their heads. But we kept on going. We wouldn’t let the score take us from our game,” said Pritchard.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair knotted up at 20 with 4 minutes remaining as Belmont freshman Tim Minicozzi scored 5 of his 7 game points subbing for Yardemian who picked up his second foul early. Melrose took its final lead at 22-20 at 3:24 but it would be the Raiders’ highwater mark as Belmont’s pressure defense created a 10-second half court violation followed by yet another Ellet trey. As an explanation point, Ellet hustled down court to administer a monster block on an attempted layup which resulted in a 30-second violation.
With two minutes left in the quarter, Ellet’s fourth three of the half preceded Yardemian’s own three before the point guard spotted Pollack under the basket for a pair. Junior Ben Sseruwagi’s up and in (2 of his 8 points) and a Pollack block and rebound preserved a Marauders lead at the half, 33-26.
The third quarter is where the cream rose to the top as Belmont’s team defense and talent blew the game open as the Marauders outscored the Raiders’ 31-8 with Pollack battling for five of this 10 points before leaving the game due to a “turned ankle,” according to Pritchard.
“I had to hustle on both sides of the ball, get a defensive rebound than sprint down court and get an offensive rebound and put back. Every time, just outwork the other big guys,” said Pollack.
By the fourth, both teams gave their reserves an opportunity to grab a few playoff minutes with Belmont using every one they could find on the bench.
For the second game running, Pritchard praised Pollack’s battling nature on the boards.
“We play a smaller lineup, and we have a kid who is going after rebounds, blocking shots and pressuring full court. He’s a special athlete. That motor is something,” Pritchard said.
Woburn (15-7) is a familiar opponent for Belmont (17-5) having beaten the Tanners both times they faced them this season.
“I love [the Woburn coaching staff],” said Pritchard. “The coach is a good friend of mine, and the kids on both teams are very familiar with each other so it should be a heck of a game. It should be fun.”