Photo: Belmont High wins at the Good Sports Invitational.
On the biggest stage this season, Belmont High’s Girls’ Hoops put together its best and most complete game as a suffocating defense and clutch shooting powered the Marauders by a strong Chelmsford High Lions squad, 50-36, on the parquet court of the TD Garden, Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Good Sports Invitational.
In a game which Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart used her entire bench (10 Marauders would grace the score sheet) allowing each player an opportunity to play on an NBA court, Belmont stayed with its Division 1 opponents in the first half before clamping down on the Lions shooters in the second half, limiting the Merrimack Valley Small Conference leaders to a total of 14 points in the final 16 minutes.
“We had some really good moments on the floor,” said Hart, whose team now stands at 8-3.
“The girls really communicated well in a big new place and nerves didn’t seem to be a factor,” she said.
Leading the Marauders was its senior co-captain center/forward Sarah Stewart who controlled the action in the paint (in front of the basket) with her rebounding against taller opponents, blocking and harassing shots and hitting a series of timely baskets including an offensive put-back as time expired in the third quarter to up Belmont’s the lead to 10.
“My coach said it starts with defense and that’s what I focused on, on boxing out and just being a bigger person on the court both mentally and physically,” said Stewart who finished the morning with 8 points.
“When you do defense first, the offense will come with it,” she said.
Stewart’s dominance gave her teammates room to find space to score near the basket. After going “Oh-for” (no points) two nights before against Wakefield in a disappointing loss (42-38), sophomore Jenny Call responded by scoring a game-high 19 points, 12 in the second half on drives to the hoop and from range with a pair of threes.
Quarterbacking the offense was sophomore point guard Carly Christofori, who scored 12 points while picking herself off the floor after driving to the basket.
Belmont got out to a fast start, going up 12-4 in the first four minutes. But the Lions used three-point marksmanship and pinpoint passing, took the lead in the second quarter behind Chelmsford’s 1,000 points senior captain Claire Markey (10 points) and center Annie Donahue, who had 9 of her 11 points in the first half.
The Lions took a six-point lead, 22-16, midway through the quarter which saw Hart used her role players. And while the Belmont starters sat, their teammates chipped into the lead while wearing down the Chelmsford five. A mid-range basket by freshman Jane Mahon (2 points), a hoop from Call and a three-pointer from Christofori at the buzzer finished off a 7-0 run and secured a 23-22 halftime lead for the Marauders.
“I think our depth actually helped by playing everyone. We were able to run so much, and while the game was close, we had fresh bodies out there, and that helped in the second half,” said Hart.
The second half saw Belmont slowly pull away from the tiring Lions as the Marauders took control of all aspects of the game. A spinning hook by sophomore Greta Propp (2 points) gave Belmont a 6 point lead with just under two minutes to play in the third and Stewart’s buzzer beater upped the advantage to nine, 39-30, with eight minutes to play.
While the Lions got within six points (41-35) midway through the quarter, Call would respond with a three-pointer and going 4-4 from the charity stripe to close the deal.
For Belmont, it was a rare occasion not just to play on the same court as the Boston Celtics, but to celebrate a victory in the Garden.
“At first, the adrenaline was really crazy. Just being here was unreal, so it was nice to see familiar faces in the crowd instead of random people,” said Stewart.