Photo: Belmont’s Danny Yardemian leads the Marauders to the Comcast Tourament title.
Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball did themselves proud at last weekend’s Comcast Tournament taking on some of the best hoop teams in the state at Woburn High School.
The boys’ defeated Brighton, 72-69, and handled 17th-ranked St. Mary’s of Lynn, 72-61, to win its division as junior Danny Yardemian was named Division MVP. The Belmont Girls’ defeated 2015 state champions Bishop Feehan, 60-57, in overtime and was leading the number 1-ranked Westford Academy by nine points at the half before fading down the stretch and losing in the finals, 54-47.
Belmont Boys’ came into the tournament on a roll, defeating highly-talented rivals Winchester, Woburn and Arlington to end the regular season on a six-game winning run. In the tourney opener, Belmont faced Brighton, the team which unceremonially knocked off a strong Marauders team in the first round of the 2016 Division 2 North sectionals. It was close early with Belmont up 12-10 after the first quarter with junior guard Ben Sseruwagi leading the way with 6 points. The Marauders upped the lead to five at the half (35-30) as senior forward Will Ellet (16 points) knock down three threes in the quarter. Belmont would keep a margin of between 6 to 10 points through most of the second half when Yardemian scored 13 of his 17 points. A late comeback by Brighton cut the lead to two with 12 seconds to go when sophomore Mac Annus hit one of two and the Panthers missed a pair of treys.
Against St. Mary’s, Belmont followed the same script as before, close in the first while stretching the lead in the second. With Yardemian lead the offense both pointwise and dishing the ball, the Marauders went on a tear, scoring 29 points in the second, hitting four threes to go with a good number of drives to the basket as Annus and Yardemian had six while Ellet threw in a pair of threes scoring nine in the quarter. Up 43-27 at the half, Belmont would stay in the lead by double digits into the fourth when St. Mary’s Stephen Fama (23 points) got the Spartans within nine, 68-59, with a little more than two minutes to play. But Yaremian would seal the victory at the line, hitting 8 for 10 from the charity stripe to end the game with 31 points and the MVP trophy. Sseruwagi joined Yaremian on the all-tournament team and senior Tomas Donoyan was the recipient of the team/scholarship.
The Belmont Boys sits at 15-8 overall and 15-5 in regards to its placement in the tournament.
The Belmont Girls’ used a tenacious defense and clutch play by senior Carly Christofori to take down the top-10 Shamrocks from Bishop Feehan in extra time. Both teams held their own in the first quarter with the Marauders up 12-10 which could have been a larger lead if not for a few missed shots in close. Senior Jenny Call’s two threes and fellow co-captain Greta Propp work inside kept the game tight in the second and when Jane Mahon made a mid-range bucket with seconds left in the quarter, Belmont took a slim one-point lead, 28-27, into the break.
Bishop Feehan took its largest lead of the game at 5, 42-37, late in the third on threes from seniors Nicole Smith and Anna Shaughnessy only to see a trey from Christofori with five seconds left tied the game at 42 entering the final eight minutes. Down by four midway through the fourth quarter, a pair of threes from Call and Christofori (a game-high 21 points) swung the lead back to Belmont, 50-48. A steal and layup by Smith with 80 seconds left knotted the score at 52. The Shamrocks had the better chances to win the game in regulation – including a missed one and one – but Belmont hung on to send the game into extra time.
Tan’s three and yet another Mahon mid-range jumper gave Belmont a 57-54. A Tan free throw with 24 seconds left upped the lead by one, 58-54, only for junior Sarah John make a line-drive three to cut the lead to one with 8.3 seconds remaining. On the inb0unds, the Shamrocks fouled Giorgio who had gone 0-6 from the charity stripe. But the junior center nailed the two shots to give the game to the Marauders.
Sunday’s championship game was a tale of two halves as Belmont’s suffocating defense and opportunistic offense took the Gray Ghosts by surprise as Tan came out smoking, scoring 6 points and grabbing three offensive rebounds to lead the Marauders to a 15-2 lead after the first quarter. After Belmont built its biggest lead at 15, 17-2, Westford would finally score its first basket at 5:30 in the second quarter. The rest of the quarter saw each team rely on defense as Westford paid close attention on Christofori at times triple teaming the four-year starter. After Giorgio made two free throws with less than a minute in the half, Belmont stretched its lead to 23-11. But a last-second three-pointer from senior Brooke Pillsbury cut the advantage to 23-14 and was a harbinger of things to come.
Belmont’s third quarter was a polar opposite to its stellar play in the first half, with tentative and questionable shooting and being outrebounded better than two-to-one, the Marauders saw their lead melt away quickly. Westford’s senior guard Emily Bramanti’s trio of threes in the quarter (11 points in the third) led the way for the Gray Ghosts as they outscored the Marauders 18-4 to take a 32-27 point lead into the fourth. Belmont did marshal a comeback behind Giorgio’s eight points in the final quarter (the center led the Marauders with 15 points), cutting the lead to two, 42-40, with 2:19 left. But a three by junior guard Carolyn Graham (her only points of the game) put Belmont down by 7 with a minute to play.
Christofori and Tan were selected to the all-tourney team and Propp was the recipient of the scholarship.
Belmont finishes the season at 17-3 and awaits the seeding for the MIAA Division 1 North sectionals on Friday, Feb. 23.