Photo: Defense is the name of the game for Belmont.
For Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart and her team, the postseason has already begun.
“I feel like every game is our first tournament game,” said Hart after the Marauders halted a four-game losing streak with a solid 54-30 victory over winless Winchester (0-16) Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 9.
The win brings Belmont (9-6) within one game of clinching a spot in the Division 2 North playoffs. Belmont needs to capture one win in their final five matches to secure a place in the dance.
“It really is game to game for us,” said Hart. Belmont plays a much improved Reading Memorial High team away before heading to a North Shore tournament and finishing up with Lexington at home on Feb. 25.
The game was close early as both teams had not taken the court for a while due to Friday’s snowstorm.
The long layoff – a week since its last game, a loss to undefeated Woburn – “affected our shooting a little tonight, so we were a little cold,” said Hart, noting it took nearly three minutes before the first basket – a three-pointer from Belmont’s sophomore point guard Carly Christofori (14 points), with the Sachems taking a 9-8 lead entering the second quarter.
As with the past five games, Belmont was able to stay close with an aggressive defense, holding Winchester to four points in the second to take a 19-13 lead into the half, scoring the last 6 points of the quarter behind sixth man sophomore Alexa Sabatino who had a clever assist to frosh Megan Tan (5 points with a three) and scored her only basket off a steal.
“Our defense, in the end, is what made the difference. We keep telling them that,” said Hart.
Winchester did creep back into the game behind junior captain Julie Fitzgerald who scored 7 of her co-game-high 14 points in the third (all from free throws) as the Sachems pulled within 5 (25-20) with 3:40 left in the quarter before Tan and sophomore forward Jenny Call (5 points) hit outside threes to give Belmont a 31-25 lead entering the final eight minutes.
Unlike the past few games, Belmont’s offense came to life as the defense wore down the Sachems. A layup by senior co-captain Irini Nikolaidis (8 points), a bucket and one and a steal and layup by Christofori gave Belmont a 12 point lead with six minutes remaining, and that was the game.
Co-captain Samri Winklaar hit for 8 points, Greta Propp (6 points) went 2-4 from the line along with two hoops while role players Sofia Cellucci (with a great three pointer) and Riley Haight (2 points) got in the book.
Belmont held Winchester to five points in the fourth as the squad swarmed the ball time and time again.
“Offenses are great but defenses are better,” said Hart.
Just as the Denver Broncos.