Belmont Boys’ Hoops ‘Big Three’ Bring Marauders Back To North Final With Win Over Latin Academy

Photo: Belmont’s Preston Jackson-Stephens driving to the basket.

The Boston Celtics had the “Big Three” – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – who took the team to the NBA championship in 2008.

And during Belmont High Boys’ Basketball return to the Division 2 North Finals, its had found its own “Big Three” to carry the load.

Senior guard Mac Annus and junior forwards Tim Minicozzi and Preston Jackson-Stephens have asserted their prowess in the three tournament games not just in each scoring an average of 20-plus points per game but with on-court leadership and a coolness under pressure.

And it was never more in evidence on Wednesday, March 4 in Wakefield High’s oldie-style gym where the trio accepted the challenge from a smart and quick Boston Latin Academy squad to display the grit and guts to slay the Dragons, 72-64, in an all-you-would-hope-for North semifinal.

Belmont returns to the Tsongus Arena in Lowell on Saturday, March 7, to defend its North title in an encounter with top seed Beverly – the Panthers were the 1 seed last season. Tip off is at 4:15 p.m.

The three’s dominance showed as they combined for 66 of Belmont’s 72 points vs Latin Academy with Jackson-Stephens with 26, Minicozzi 23 and Annus throwing in 17.

“They’ve been doing that all year,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s long time head coach. “There are not a lot of coaches that are blessed with three guys who are scoring for that average. It’s because they are really focused players who shot a lot but most of all they are great kids.”

Annus – who was recently named the MVP of the Middlesex League – Minicozzi and Jackson-Stephens found it difficult which of the three to defend as each has the ability to drive inside, find the assist or bury an NBA-length three point shots. Pick your poison.

The opening quarter was all Dragons, using its speed – slashing to the hoop, creating steals and winning the majority of the 50/50 ball all night long – and outside shooting to nearly run Belmont off the court and out of the game early as Latin Academy’s all-everything guard Abdulahi Aden hit for three 3s in the quarter.

The second saw the track meet ended as both teams took the game inside the paint with Belmont creeping back into the game as Minicozzi and Jackson-Stephens hit 3s to end the half down with Belmont down 33-29.

The Marauders started the third continuing to connect from long distance as Annus and Minicotti hit three consecutive 3s to put Belmont in the lead for the first time, 38-37. Slowly the Marauders advantage grew as Latin Academy shots were off the mark. An Annus 3 with a little more than a minute remaining gave Belmont its biggest lead at 49-40, before ending the quarter outscoring Latin Academy 20 to 10 in the third to take a 49-43 into the final eight minutes.

The fourth quarter saw Latin Academy come off the mat with Aden’s 11 points in the quarter leading the way. Jackson Stephens would make one of two free throws before driving for a layup to give Belmont a small three point cushion only to see Latin Academy march back to cut the lead to 63-62 when Belmont fouled on the shot near the basket.

With the ball in their hands and less than a minute to play, Latin Academy blinked, as they missed both free throws with 56.1 seconds left giving Belmont the rock and a one point lead.

On the subsequent trip down court, Minicozzi drove the baseline and was chopped down to put the junior on the charity stripe. Then, in frustration rather than anger, a Latin Academy player punched the loose ball toward the benches. The official had little option but to call a technical foul.

Annus hit the two technical free throws, Minicozzi sank his pair and Belmont retained possession. A quick foul sent Jackson-Stephens to the line who hit one of two and the damage had been done as a one point lead stretched to six in just a handful of seconds.

There was a reprieve for Latin Academy when Belmont was called for its own technical for taunting and narrowed the margin to a two possession game but a rushed shot and a foul proved the margin of victory.

Pritchard told the media gaggle surrounding him after the contest that having core players who have been this far into the tournament before is a clear advantage.

“Experience is not to be overlooked in terms of confidence. But you know that confidence is hard work, it’s determination and it’s self belief and they believe in themselves and believe in their teammates.”

As for the matchup against Beverly, Pritchard was succinct.

“They’re very good,” said Pritchard. “We’re pretty good, too.”

3rd Seed Boys Hoops Meets Reading (Again) In 1st Round Playoff Matchup Monday, Feb 24

Photo: Senior Mac Annus drives against Burlington

If familiarity breed contempt, then the boys’ basketball teams from Belmont and Reading High are about to target each others shortcomings as the Middlesex Liberty rivals meet each other for the third time this season in the opening round match of the MIAA Division 2 North sectional tournament.

The third seed Marauders (16-4) and the 14th ranked Rockets (9-9) will continue their re-re-rematch on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Belmont’s Wenner Field House.

While the Marauders nearly doubled up the Rockets, 84-46, in the first meeting on Jan. 3, the second was a low-scoring slugfest as Belmont barely squeaked by the hosts, 45-42, on the last day of the month.

A win against the Rockets will see Belmont at home against the winners of the Billerica vs Somerville match later in the week.

Belmont had a solid second half of the season, with a 8-3 record, with a few hiccups along the way. The team retained the Middlesex Liberty title going undefeated in division play while knocking off the Middlesex Freedom champs Burlington, 70-61, running off a 17-2 punch-to-the-gut scoreline in the final 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.

While the squad defeated top-ten ranked hosts Catholic Memorial, it also saw its two year league and three year home undefeated streaks come to an end with losses to Freedom division foes Wakefield and Watertown. Belmont ended the season with a two-point loss to Division One Andover in the finals of the Comcast Tournament.

It was during the last half that Belmont senior forward Mac Annus joined the select few to break the career 1,000 point mark against Woburn on Seniors Night on Feb. 13.

Annus, junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephen and forward Tim Minicozzi will take on the offensive roles. Senior guard Avery Arno will join spark plug sixth man junior guard Ali Noorouzi in upping the tempo on both ends of the court. Sophomore Kevin Logan, who saw his time on the court increase after an impressive performance coming off the bench against Catholic Memorial, will add height and heft under the basket.

For long time Head Coach Adam Pritchard, the playoffs are the reward for the work the team committed to at the beginning of the season.

“They’ve been a great group to coach. They have a real bond that will important against some of the best teams in the entire state,” he said.

Solid Pitching, Timely Hitting Propels Belmont Baseball Past Masco in Playoff Opener

Photo: David Pergamo (front) and Martin Marintchev score on Mike Brown’s single in the first inning.

With solid defense and riding the steady right arm of senior Martin Marintchev, Belmont High School secured a 7-1 victory over Masconomet Regional in the first round of the MIAA Division 2 North sectional playoffs on Thursday, June 6.

Marintchev held the Chieftains (11-10) to six singles and one earned run while striking out four as he went the distance for the complete game victory. Marintchev helped his own cause by driving in a pair of runs, joining teammates junior DH Mike Brown and third base Dave Pergamo who totaled two RBIs each.

Belmont High’s Martin Marintchev.

Belmont, the tournament’s 7th seed, will next play second seed St. Mary’s School of Lynn on Monday, June 10, at 4 p.m. at Fraser Field in Lynn.

“We got out on front early and that made a great deal of difference,” said long-time Belmont Head Coach Jim Brown. “That let our pitcher throw strikes and when [Masco] started hitting, our fielders did a great job.”

Evidence of Belmont’s defensive prowess started early in the top half of the first when a base on balls and a bloop single resulted in Chieftains on second and third and no outs. But Masco couldn’t push a run across the plate as first shortstop Joe Carey and then second base Matt Brody cut down runners at the plate before third base Pergamo got the final out on a long throw from third to first.

For its part, Belmont did not waste its first opportunity, putting two up in the bottom of the inning. A walk to Pergamo followed by a deep double from Marintchev set up Brown who whacked a two-run single to give the Marauders the early lead.

After the fast start, the pitchers took over for the next four innings. And while Masco was hitting the ball, Marintchev was forcing the Chieftains to lift the ball, keeping center fielder Joe LaFaudi and right fielder Joe Destefano busy during that stretch.

Belmont finally got the insurance runs it had been barking about since the first inning in the bottom of the sixth, coming from the bottom of the lineup. With one out, number 6 batter catcher Mike Giangregorio was hit by a pitch followed by left fielder Justin Rocha lacing a single down the third base line.

It was here Brown relied on “small ball” tactics with a bunt laid down by LaFauci scoring Giangregorio. A second bunt by Destefano loaded the bases after an attempted putout at third saw Rocha scrambling back to the bag. A pair of singles from Pergamo and Marintchev scored a pair each and that was the game as Belmont ran off to a 7-0 lead.

Brown said St. Mary’s which had a bye in the opening round, has all star pitcher Lee Pacheco waiting in the wings while Belmont will likely send out its top dog, Mike Brown.

“We’ll have to have a similar game in the field, with no errors, to stay in the game,” said Brown.

Belmont Baseball Captures Third Middlesex Title After Outpitching Lexington

Photo: Belmont High Marauders; 2019 Middlesex League co-champions.

Third times a charm as Belmont High Baseball used another outstanding pitching performance by junior Mike Brown who outdueled Lexington High ace Grahan Seed for a 2-1 victory and secured a third consecutive Middlesex League Liberty title for the Marauders on Saturday, June 1.

Belmont shares the league crown (the first time Belmont has strung three in a row) with Woburn by winning the final regular season game vs the Minutemen in what was likely the last high school game ever played at Brendan Grant Field which will become part of the construction site of the new Belmont Middle and High School.

“I’m proud of you guys. You guys are freaking awesome today. The bench, the starters, everything,” said long-time Belmont head coach Jim Brown to his charges after the game.

Belmont, at 12-8, waits until Tuesday, June 4 to see when and where they’ll be playing in the Division 2 North Sectionals. And Brown has high hopes for his team this postseason.

“Yeah, they’re a scrappy team,” said Brown about the Marauders. “They’ve won games one to nothing, two to one, two to nothing. They back up their two starters [Brown and senior Martin Marintchev] in the field better as the season went on.”

And Saturday’s matinee kept to Belmont’s season-long script as the Marauders dug up a pair of runs in the fourth and relied on Brown’s dominating performance on the mound to take home the win. The junior southpaw struck out 15, gave up more hit batsmen (2) than hits (a lone single) with the only run against him unearned.

Mike Brown on the mound.

After both teams could do little the first time through the line up against each pitcher – Brown struck out 10 and Seed K’d four in the first four innings – before Belmont struck for their two in the bottom of the fourth.

A hard-earned walk by leadoff batter David Pergamo was followed by a deep double to center right by Marintchev. After an intentional walk to Brown to load the bases, Matt Brody ripped an RBI single up the middle to score Pergamo. After a fly out to the outfield, Justin Rocha hit a hard grounder to third that drove in Marintchev on the fielders choice.

Lexington scored in the top of the sixth without the benefit of a hit and seeing a mere four batters come to the plate. With one out, the number 8 hitter second base Noah Sevigny walked, stole second and while attempting to steal third came home on a throwing error. Belmont got out of the inning as Brody threw out Minuteman’s Matt Favazzo heading to third during the play.

Lexington made it interesting in the top of the 7th when Brown hit two batters who ended up in scoring position. But a lazy fly to Joe DeStefano playing right ended both the threat and the game.

With two pitchers – Brown and Marintchev – who Brown call’s league all-star caliber and just enough offense when it counts, “you guys can do some damage in the tournament,” Brown told the team.

Kings Of The North: Belmont Boys’ D2 Sectional Champions After Dominating North Andover

Photo: Kings of the North, 2019 Belmont High School

Belmont High School senior guard and co-captain Danny Yardemian said at the beginning of the 2018-19 season he didn’t want to end his basketball career without bringing a title, make that any title, back to the school. 

On Saturday, Yardemian and his fellow Marauders picked up that long-sought after silverware and will be placing a sectional crown into the school’s trophy case as number one seed Belmont captured the Division 2 North title beating defending champions North Andover, 64-51, on March 9 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. 

“It’s mission accomplished,” said Yardemian, whose magical season continues having set new school marks for game scoring (46 points) and career points now somewhere close to 1,400. 

“I’m so proud of my team mates, we as a team worked so hard for this. Words can’t describe it. It’s surreal,” he said. 

The victory sends Belmont (23-2) to the Eastern Mass championships against the defending Division 2 state title holders, TechBoston Academy, on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:15 p.m. at the TD Garden. It will be a rematch from last month when TechBoston outlasted Belmont, 73-68, in the finals of the Comcast Classic in Woburn.

“It sounds good to me,” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard when asked his thoughts of playing for the second time on the Garden parquet floor this season – a loss to Algonquin Regional High School in January – now for the eastern Mass title.

The victory is the first sectional title since 2007 when Belmont, coincidentally, defeated North Andover before losing to Catholic Memorial in the Eastern finals.

The game was decided over the final four plus minutes of the third quarter when the Marauders outplayed an exhausted Scarlet Knights team to the tune of 17-1. The game also turned into a showcase for sophomore reserve forward Preston Jackson-Stephens who dominated the hardwood on both ends of the court coming off the bench, scoring 18 points (co-high scorer with Yardemian and North Andover’s Jake McElroy) and taking on North Andovers’ front line.

“It didn’t matter who was against me, it was the Eye on the Prize. The only person who can stop me is me, no other opponent [can],” said Jackson-Stephens.

“Preston came in and made some big moves and helped us out a great deal,” said Pritchard, in his 19th year at the helm of the Marauders.

The first half was a game of runs with Belmont stretching up to a lead only to see North Andover bounce back. After senior co-captain Ben Sseruwagi opened the scoring with a hoop and one – which was accompanied by a pose in front of the Scarlet Knights bench – Belmont fell behind 6-3 when Jackson-Stephens gave the crowd a preview of his night by driving to the basket for two than hitting a line drive 3 as part of a 7-0 Belmont run.

Behind by one, 11-10, enter the second, the Marauders took advantage of its speed and confidence with the ball. After Sseruwagi made two free throws, Jackson-Stephens had a monster block then drove the length of the court before being fouled and converting one of two from the charity stripe to put Belmont up 16-15 with 6 minutes to play. The Marauders would then run off a 12-2 spurt over the next four minutes highlighted by threes from sophomore Tim Minicozzi who ended with 9 for the game and senior co-captain center Daniel Seraderian (5 points) who played stellar defense against North Andovers’ big men.

After Yardemian hit one of two from the line to give Belmont a double digit lead, 29-19, with two minutes left, the Marauders appeared to be cruising to a big lead at the half. But North Andover would put on a furious comeback culminating with a pair of 3s from senior guard Jake McElroy and junior guard Kyle Moore (whose basket bounced three times before dropping) and cutting Belmont’s advantage to 30-29 at the break. 

The Knights came out strong early in the second half, up 38-36 when Sseruwagi tied it up with a behind his back drive to the hoop at 4:30 in the quarter. And for the remainder of the half, it was all Belmont as they ran North Andover ragged, outscoring the Knights 17-1 in a display of both ends of the floor total basketball with Jackson-Stephens starting the push with a driving hoop followed by Yardemian’s two in the lane.

After Minicozzi nailed a jumped and one from distance to increase to lead to 10, 49-39, North Andover called a time out with 1:14 left in an attempt to stem the bleeding. But Belmont took the ball from the Knights resulting in another Jackson-Stephens basket who scored eight points in the quarter while Sseruwagi (12 points) threw down seven of his own in the run.

By its end of the third quarter, North Andover was looking up at a 16 point deficit with the final 8 minutes before them. There was no response to the onslaught as Belmont eased through the fourth, going up by 20, 62-42, midway through the quarter, to claim their prize. 

For Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard, the victory was due to the “five good offensive weapons” on the court at any one time. And when the game was close at the half, “It was the players that talked about defense and rebounding.”

“The reality is that half time was all about Danny Yardemian, Ben Sseruwagi, [center] Jake Herlihy and [Seraderian] did all the talking,” said Pritchard. And that group returned to the court and proved they could walk the walk.

Finals Bound: Belmont Boys Rewrite Record Book In Playoff Wins Over Gloucester, Arlington

By: Junior Mac Annus who now holds the Belmont High record for 3 point baskets in a game with 12. Photo by David Johnedis

The Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball squad rewrote the records book in two playoff wins that propelled them to the Division 2 North sectional finals this Saturday, March 9 at UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center against defending champions North Andover.

Annus smash 3s game record in semis victory over Gloucester

There is a Baker’s dozen and after Tuesday’s semifinal vs Gloucester High, there’s a Belmont dozen as junior shooting guard Mac Annus shattered the previous program record of nine three-point baskets with an eye-popping 12 to catapult the number 1 seed Marauders’ to a 79-59 victory over the visiting Fishermen in the D2 North semis played before a packed Coach Lyons’ Court at Belmont High.

“I walk through the hallway [leading into the gym] and look at the [list of records] every day and I finally broke it,” said Annus after the game in which he scored 38 points on 12 for 14 from beyond the arc. “I was feeling confident and my teammates were finding me,” he said noting the record was “extra special” as it came in a playoff semifinal.

“[Annus] is certainly a big weapon for us to have and [breaking the record] wasn’t outside of what he can do,” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard. “I’ve seen [Annus] hit 15 in a row in practice so I 

And Belmont (23-2) would need the guard’s dead-eye accuracy as the fifth-seed Fishermen (16-7) nearly ran the Marauders off the court in a frantic first quarter. Using an upbeat offensive tempo to break Belmont’s full court press and strength under the hoop (three blocks in the quarter, two by center Marcus Montagnino who scored 19 points), the Fishermen literally raced by the Marauders to build a 17-6 lead after four minutes in the quarter.

That’s when Annus began his night, hitting consecutive treys to cut the lead to 17-12. Dueling threes from Belmont’s sophomore Tim Minicozzi and Gloucester’s Oliver (7 3s, 27 points) would see the quarter ended with the Fishermen out front 24-17.

Belmont came out of the gate fast as senior captain Danny Yardemian (18 points) slicing to the basket for two which set the stage for Annus to drop the anvil on a slowing Gloucester as the three-year varsity player drained three consecutive treys – each in front of a boisterous Gloucester student section – from beyond the arc to give Belmont the lead at 29-28.

A steal and bucket from Yardemian was countered by a two from Oliver (who ended the night and his high school career reportedly with 996 career points) to tie the contest at 31 but Annus’ fourth three of the quarter at 2:48 gave the Marauders the lead, 34-31, they would keep for the remainder of the contest, as they went into the half leading 40-31. It was a quarter where Belmont’s half-court defense and stellar play on the wings limited Gloucester to 7 points in eight minutes.

See Annus interviewed at courtside after the game here: 

The third quarter saw Belmont’s defense make life difficult for Gloucester’s once unstoppable offense, upping the lead to 13, 48-33, before ending the third leading 56-43. 

With the game down to its final eight minutes, Gloucester attempted a final comeback cutting the lead to 10, 56-46, through a hoop and one from senior Kenneth Turner only to see Annus tie the school’s 3s record a minute and 10 seconds into the fourth to increase the lead to 13. Shortly afterward, the junior would put an exclamation point on his night with three more from long distances (Annus was 12 of 14 from beyond 19’9″) to seal the victory, secure the record and have the large Belmont student section chant “MVP!”

Calling Annus “the best shooter I’ve ever coached” in 19 years at Belmont’s helm, Pritchard credited the unselfish work by his teammates for both locating Annus in space and setting picks to free him for his shots. 

Belmont returns to the Divison 2 North finals for the first time in a decade – the nine-seeded Marauders were defeated by Woburn, 48-45 in 2009 – as they take on defending North champions, North Andover, on Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.

Yardemian Secures Career Scoring Crown Leading Marauders Over Arlington

Belmont’s senior captain Danny Yardemian had just broken the career points record of Steven Kearns on Friday, March 1 which would usually cause the game to be halted for the new titlist to receive the game ball and lots of cheers.

But Yardemian was too busy at that moment; other than a quick arms pump, the Marauders’ leader played on as he was in the midst of turning the Division 2 North Sectional playoff game vs. Middlesex League rivals Arlington on its head. Having trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and behind by five, 46-41, late in the third, Yardemian (30 points) was in the midst of scoring six consecutive baskets in the matter of 2 minutes and 16 seconds including a floater at the buzzer to give Belmont a three-point advantage, 53-50, entering the fourth quarter at an overflowing Coach Lyons’ Court in Belmont.


And with the help of a killer three-pointer from sophomore Tim Minicozzi to give Belmont a 58-53 lead, a critical block by senior center and co-captain Jake Herlihy with Belmont hanging onto a 59-56 advantage and a quartet of free throws – including two via a technical – by junior Mac Annus (21 points), the Marauders were able to power by the SpyPonders in an instant classic, 71-67, to advance to the semifinals vs. Gloucester. 

“It was a really hard fought game against a team that is really well coached,” said Yardemian after the battle on the court. “People were saying that they were the eight seed … they came to play and it was a great game.”

Not that it was a perfect game for the captain against the SpyPonders as the teams met for the third time this season. Yardemian – who coincidently broke the 1,000 point mark against Arlington earlier in the year – went a Chamberlain-esque 9 for 18 from the charity stripe.

“I was leaving them short [early] then it was mental,” he said.

As for his second record-breaking scoring performance this season – the senior guard now holds the single-game mark with 46 points against Lexington in December – Yardemian said the achievement is “really humbling” as his name now joins the other 1,000 point Marauders on the Field House wall.