Photo: Point guards Classical’s Jaylen Johnson and Belmont’s Danny Yardemian.
For the first three-quarters of its sectional quarterfinals match with favorite Lynn Classical, Belmont High School’s Boys’ Basketball were not just holding their own against the Rams, they were taking the measure of their hosts.
During the Saturday afternoon matinee, on March 4, the 6th-seeded Marauders driving, dishing and overall hustle appeared to surprise the Classical players and coaches as Belmont kept a steady five-point advantage throughout the game.
But all the 24 minutes of great work against the Northeastern Conference champs ended up for naught as the Rams used their quickness and athleticism to outscore the visitors 19-7 in the final eight minutes to leave their home court winners, 57-50, and end Belmont’s post-season.
The Marauders finish the season 17-7.
“Both teams have their strengths, and they were able to create some turnovers in the fourth quarter and converted them into baskets. For me that was really it,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s head coach after the game.
At tip-off, it was Belmont pushing the play with junior forward Tomas Donoyan scoring inside and outside along with a big block all in the first two minutes. It was then up to sophomore point guard Danny Yardemian to show off his smooth skills by twice brutalize Rams’ guard Erick Solis by driving the length of the court for a pair of baskets, part of his 6 point quarter and 10 point half.
On the other side, Classical had its sophomore point, Jaylen Johnson who matched Yardemian with six in the quarter.
A jumper from Belmont’s league all-star senior captain Paul Ramsey at the end of the eight minutes left the game knotted up at 14.
Pritchard added a little height to the game by injecting junior forward Jake Pollard who contributed by driving by the Rams’ big man Alek Bogavac followed by a 3 from senior Daron Hamparian gave Belmont the lead they would hold for most of the game.
The Marauders pressure gave Classical fits as they were hurrying shots offensively. The Rams one saving grace was a near magnetic attraction they had with the ball on the offensive boards, allowing for a number of second chance hoops.
Belmont was scrapping together baskets on their end with good ball rotation along with another Yardemian coast to coast bucket. A 3 from senior guard Bryan Goodwin gave the Marauders its biggest lead at eight, 34-26, in the final minute of the half. A late Classical hoop ended the scoring after 16 minutes at 34-28.
The third quarter was a slog, as both teams were trying to keep up the pace of the first half. Only the point guards were putting the ball through the net with Yardemian scoring seven to Johnson’s six points. After a three-minute stretch that the score remained at 41-34, Lynn Classical hit a pair in between Belmont’s final points by Yardemian to give Belmont a five-point lead, 43-38, entering the final stanza.
The fourth quarter soon became a clinic by Classical who swarmed the Belmont player with the ball and either caused a turnover or simply stole the rock. When Belmont ventured inside, the Rams’ junior center Edwin Solis – coming back from an injury – was grabbing rebounds and being fouled (he would go 4 for 4 from the line).
Just after midway through the quarter, Johnson, who ended with 17 points, made a layup to give the Rams and with it, the lead changes hands for the first time since the opening minute of the second quarter. Unfortunately for the Marauders, it was the final lead change of the game.
“We lost composure. They’re quick kids so when you try to dribble against them, and you throw floating passes, that’s what happens,” Pritchard said.
The next three Belmont possessions ended with the ball being stolen by the Rams. Yardemian’s 3 (he would end with a game-high 22 points) cut Lynn Classical’s advantage to 51-48 with two minutes to go, but the Rams’ would hit just enough shots from the charity stripe to head for the semifinals.
Pritchard praised his team that nearly always came to the court undersized but would outwork its opponents for the entire season.
“We’re proud of our players. They certainly didn’t disappoint their coaches and parents. We were probably not a team picked to be fighting in the state tournament. It was a lot of credit to our senior class to get here,” said Pritchard.