Sports: Belmont Girls’ Hoops Stumbles vs Arlington, Difficult Week Ahead

Photo: Sophomore guard Alexa Sabatino heading to the basket against Arlingon home.

There is no better example of a team with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona than Belmont High’s Girls’ Basketball team.

When on their side of the midcourt line, the Marauders’ are a ball-hawking defense that makes it difficult for (most) teams to set a good shot off, holding strong teams such as Woburn, Chelmsford, and Watertown below their season point average.

But cross the line into the opponent’s end and the team’s aggressiveness evaporates and a tentative, almost timid offense emerges with the growing tendency of coming way without even attempting a shot at the hoop. With the rare exception, open shots are deferred, and the ball is passed to a player in the paint where a slew of opponents are waiting.

Beginning with a lackluster loss to an average Wakefield team when Belmont was 7-2, Belmont has fallen to a ranked Watertown squad by 12 points despite being tied with the Raiders with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, and on Friday night, Jan. 29 dropping a home game in overtime, 56-52, to Arlington, a team Belmont easily dispatched, 48-31, early in the season. 

Friday night’s loss wasted a career night from sophomore Alexa Sabatino (12 points) who scored came off the bench to spark the offense late in the game with two baskets (one off a beautiful putback of an offensive rebound) and 3 for 3 (8-8 in the game) from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to give Belmont a chance in the final minute of regular time. 

Arlington was able to stick around through the work of senior center Mallory DeFeo (12 of her 17 points in a dominating first half as well as a three in the fourth) and junior guard Rosalie Flinn who scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the second half and overtime.

On the other hand, Belmont would commit three 30-second violations – turning the ball over for not taking a shot –  in the game while on four consecutive occasions in the third quarter, the team came away not having a shot at the basket, losing possession via turnovers or offensive fouls.  

Belmont nearly pulled off the victory when Sabatino hit two from the charity stripe with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter to bring Belmont within one point, 46-47. 

An outstanding defensive stance forced a traveling call against the SpyPonders with 50 seconds left on the clock gave the ball. The ball found freshman center Jess Giorgio (3 points) – playing significant minutes with senior forward Sarah Stewart forced to the bench – in the paint, and the 6-foot 9th grader posted up and drained a bucket with half a minute remaining, giving Belmont a one-point lead, 48-47. 

Giorgio nearly won the game single-handedly with a perfectly timed block on the other end of the court. Unfortunately, the subsequent action saw Belmont foul Arlington’s Margaret Ammondson, who sank one of two to tie the game. A layup attempt by Belmont’s all-star guard Carly Christofori (11 points) was blocked as time ran out.

Knotted up at 52 with less than a minute in OT, Arlington’s Grace Caulo (12 points) drained a pair of free throws to give the SpyPonders a two-point lead. Lexington intercepted a Belmont inbounds pass with 17 seconds remaining, leaving the Marauders to wonder what-if. 

Friday’s defeat leaves Belmont at 8-5 with games this week against undefeated and 6th-ranked Woburn away (a rematch which Belmont lost in the final second at home, 51-50) and home Friday against 12-4 Lexington.

The match will see the last visit to the Wenner by Minuteman senior Anna Kelly who two years ago dropped 52 points against the Marauders (the third highest point total by a high school girl in Massachusetts scholastic history) and score 27 points including four threes and double digits in assists in a 62-43 pummeling of Belmont earlier in the season. 

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