Photo: Charge, Brighton.
Belmont High Boys’ Basketball Head Coach Adam Pritchard looked like the world had just settled on his shoulders after his Marauders was knocked out of the MIAA Division 2 North Sectional playoffs Tuesday night, March 1.
Pritchard’s senior-laden team had just fallen victim in the first round match-up to a young, physical squad from Brighton High, 72-67, before a ruckus home fan base, and now the long-time coach was about to enter the locker room where “there are a lot of very sad young men, I know that.”
“It was two very good teams tonight,” said Pritchard. “[Brighton is] an excellent team, I saw them play earlier in the year, and I know what they can do, and I know what we were capable of so I knew the game would come down to the final minute,” he said.
“We, unfortunately, just did not hold onto possession in vital moments down the stretch,” Pritchard said, as he took that long walk into the lockers.
While Belmont came into the game the fifth-seed, Brighton was no 12-seed, a young team that lost some games during the regular season due to lack of concentration not of talent.
In a tight game with just a pair of long scoring runs for each team, it was a critical two-minute stretch midway in the final quarter when, tied at 61, Brighton stripped and stole the possession from Belmont three consecutive times down court, converting two easy layups to take a four-point lead, 65-61, an advantage the Bengals would not concede.
“They are a very aggressive team, they anticipated well and made us turn over the ball,” said Pritchard.
With its Middlesex League All-Star guard combo of Cole Bartels and league MVP Matt Kerans, the Marauders continually found open threes early in the contest as Brighton doubled team the ball on nearly every trip to the basket. Bartels was particularly effective from beyond the arc with three 3’s in the first half for 11 points (yet he would be shut out for the second half by Brighton’s tight marking.)
Belm0nt’s scoring balance – seven players scored in the first half – and its “let them shot” defensive approached began working as junior forward Paul Ramsey found his range with a three and a two to join fellow juniors Bryan Goodwin (a bucket and a pair from the chairty strip) and Daron Hamparian (the same as Goodwin) on the scoring chart.
While Belmont’s defense and hot three-point shooting gave Belmont a four-point lead at the half, 34-30, a 7-0 run – a Kerans layup in traffic, a bucket in close from Joe Shaughnessy and a fall-away three from Kerans who ended the game with a match-high 24 points – early in the third saw the Marauders leap out in front by nine, 41-32, at the 5:30 mark of the third.
But a quick timeout by Brighton’s young and talented head coach Hugh Coleman calmed his charges which then proceeded to outscore the Marauders’ 20-11 in the third, pushed by sophomore phenom Jerrod Clark (12 points) who dropped four twos during the stretch.
Despite a monster quarter from Kerans with 11 point including three 3s – to a chorus of “MVP” – the Bengals comeback culminated with Brighton hitting a pair of threes in the final 28 seconds, the first from junior point Jordan Galloway (his first basket of the night for three of his nine total) and a buzzer beater from star junior shooting guard Tyrone Perry who end with a team-high 15 points.
It was a back and forth fourth quarter with Ramsey’s three with 5:30 left to give the Marauders’ its final advantage at 59-57. But less than a minute later, Brighton’s doubling the ball playing havoc to Belmont’s passing and dribbling attack resulting in the three steals and leading to the 4-0 run.
“We earned a lot of tough baskets tonight, but we gave up a few too many easy ones,” said Pritchard.
While the Marauders cut the lead to two with less than a minute to go (65-53 on an easy Shaughnessy layup) that was as close as Belmont would come as Kerans – who played the entire game – could not will a pair of threes to find the hoops.
For Pritchard, an outstanding season (17-6) and Middlesex League Liberty banner meant little as he stared into space after the game, which saw the end of the career of seniors Damian Bitsikas, Yvrantzi Dedravines, Justin Wagner, Shaughnessy, Luke Peterson, Lowell Haska, Bartels and Kerans, who became the program’s all-time scoring leader with more than 1,300 points.
“We played a great game, but the better team on the court was Brighton,” said Pritchard.