Photo: Justin Wagner scoring vs. Arlington.
A dominating third quarter by its three big men under the basket powered Belmont High School to the top of the Middlesex League Liberty Division after the Marauders defeated Arlington High School, 75-65, before a ruckus home crowd at the Wenner on Friday, Jan. 30.
Co-captain senior forward Justin Wagner scored 9 of his 14 points in the third as he and fellow forward Joe Shaughnessy (10 points with 6 in the final quarter) dictated play on both ends of the court, allowing Belmont to spring one-too-many fast breaks for the SpyPonders – ranked 9th in the latest Boston Globe basketball poll – to allow and stay with the Marauders as Belmont outscored the SpyPonders, 20-13, to extend its halftime margin from eight to 15 at the start of the final eight minutes.
The victory, revenge for the loss in December at Arlington (12-3) where Belmont (13-2) gave up a late lead for its first loss of the season, puts Belmont a game up in the race for the league championship.
“We kind of flipped the last game around in defense, rebounding and pounding them on the glass,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s long-time head coach.
Lead by league all-star point guard Matt Kerans who finished with 20 points (including two threes, double-digit in assists and 8-8 from the line), Belmont stayed with the quick SpyPonders which used its quickness and opportunistic defense through the first quarter (15-14 Arlington lead) before a bucket by sophomore Tomas Dononyan (2 points) followed in quick succession by a pair of threes from junior guard Daron Hamparian (8 points) gave the Marauders a 24-17 lead with 5:30 to go in the half.
Belmont’s dominance under the basket was evident when on several occasions when the Marauders had multiple looks at the basket by grabbing the offensive bound, in one sequence, taking four than six shots at the hoop before making the bucket.
“There’s not doubt that our forwards are a big part of our game because it opens the court for Kerans and our guards,” said Pritchard.
The Marauders went into the break with a 38-30 lead followed a surging junior forward Paul Ramsey who scored 7 of his 16 points in the second, two nights from a 23 point performance against Watertown in a 69-60 victory.
Arlington could not muster a sustained challenge against the Marauders as Belmont matched every SpyPonder point run with one of its own. Arlington junior captain Colin McNamara scored nine of his team-high 20 in the fourth.
There remain parts of the team’s game that could use improving moving forward, said Pritchard.
“We have a big line-up but we have to handle full-court pressure and certainly must work on our rebounding and to be honest, we have to get healthy,” he said.