Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball’s home opener victory, 56-40, over Melrose High Friday night, Dec. 19 was the quintessential “team” win with seven players scoring and a smothering defense stifling the Red Raiders’ attack that beat up Winchester just three days before.
But it’s hard not to notice when a pair of 9th graders are becoming important components in what could become a very interesting year for the Marauders. In just their second high school game, freshmen Jenny Call (10 points including a pair of three-point bombs) and Carly Christofori (game high 12 points with several steals and assists) scored in double digits with Christofori using her natural ball handling skills and to join senior Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (3 points) as the team’s point guard, who runs the team’s offense on the court.
“[Christofori] is so quick and aggressive and reads the floor so well,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart while noting that Call, who came off the bench, “got into a groove hitting those outside shots which started to spread out the court.”
“They are not only good athletes, but good basketball players with talent,” said Hart.
“I like being the leader on the court.” said Christofori, who is the younger sister of multi-sports starter Cal.
“But it’s easy because my teammates know the place they have to be and are there at the right time. So everything falls into place for me,” she said.
While the freshmen were one part of the story of the second game of the season (Belmont lost to a strong host Watertown team, 53-42, on Tuesday, Dec. 16) Hart complemented the play of senior forward Elena Bragg who was a presence on both ends of the court, scoring 11 points and grabbing numerous rebounds (just missing a “double-double” with nine grabs) and throwing herself after any loose ball in her vicinity.
Emerging as a central theme for the team this year is a “in-your-face” defense that puts pressure on the team once they step on the court. Led by senior center Linda Herlihy (7 points, three solid blocks and rebounds galore) and sophomore Irini Nikolaidis (7 points), the team kept the Red Raiders top scorer, junior guard Sarah Foote, under wraps and the team forced to take outside shots. Nikolaidis, with her speed and long arms, has become a nuisance for opposing team’s point guards.
The Marauders led from start to finish, leading 14-6 after the first quarter and when Melrose cut the lead to 16-12 at the halfway point of the second, Nikolaidis went 2 for 4 from the line in-between a Herlihy block (that brought cheers from the student bleachers) before a Bragg free throw gave Belmont a 20-14 half time lead.
The third quarter sealed the win with Christofori scoring on a drive, Nikolaidis hitting a three (Belmont’s three treys was the most beyond the arch in two years) and junior Sarah Steward (4 points on 4 for 6 from the charity stripe) running down a Red Raider who was on a solo breakaway to prevent the score to up the advantage to 41-19. The icing was on the cake when senior Lauren Noonan (2 points) hit a sweet jumper in the final two minutes.
Hart said the game was a distinct improvements over the Watertown game while improvements can still be made in terms of shot selection and “just scoring under the basket.”
“The five seniors