Boys Hoops Shut Down Rockets In Playoff Opener, Billerica Next On Friday [Video]

Photo: Mac Annus at the line vs Reading.

Belmont Boys’ Hoops began its campaign to repeat as sectional champions with an emphatic victory over Middlesex Liberty rival Reading Memorial High, 87-45, in the first round match up of the Division 2 North playoffs.

“We had a great week of practice and we played a good game on offense and defense,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

With its victory, third seed Belmont will host 6th ranked Billerica Memorial High School on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. after the team from Billerica defeated Somerville, 66-47.

The Marauders spread the rock around with three starters topping the 20 point mark with junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephens leading the way with 25 points followed by senior Mac Annus and junior Tim Minicozzi each with 21 points.

Belmont raced off to a 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter from the outside coming from threes from Minicozzi, Annus and sophomore center Kevin Logan who started the game.

Reading didn’t panic and through senior captain Taylor Marchant crept back to within five, 18-13. at the end of the quarter.

But Belmont broke out in the second quarter as Jackson-Stephens got of the snide with nine points as the junior was targeted when the Rockets began moving from under the basket to defend against Belmont outside scoring. Belmont’s solid defense and “push, push, push” transition gave the Marauders the open looks that gave them a 35-18 half time lead with Annus leading the way with 14 points including three 3s.

Reading started the second half going with a quicker but smaller lineup to spark the offense but that only allowed Belmont to dominate under the boards and allowed them to run the Rockets off the court, scoring 33 points and putting the game to bed finishing the third up 68-35.

Belmont Girls Hoops Grind By Watertown, Reading As Playoff Berth A Win Away

Photo: Kiki being Kiki: Belmont’s Christofori playing her game.

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball secured a vital pair of home victories putting them a game away from securing a return trip to the Division 2 North sectional playoffs.

But the wins over arch rival Watertown and always tough Reading were throughly grind-them-out affairs in which the Marauders found a fourth quarter savior who secured the victories.

Against the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 28, sophomore Nina Minicozzi came off a four point first half to score 14 in the second – nine of those in the fourth – to give the Marauders the needed offensive punch to pull away from their cross border challengers, 54-34.

After falling behind 7-6 after the first quarter, Belmont’s Sophie McDevitt put the team on her shoulders as the first year became a target down low for her team mates cutting in the lane, scoring three hoops from in close. And given the chance, the sister of Belmont’s starting center Emma McDevitt buried a three as she hit for 10 of her career high 14 in the second quarter to give the Marauders a 23-14 lead at the half.

Belmont welcomed Reading to the Wenner Field House for a Friday night tussle that saw a pair of big quarters for both teams. After a close first quarter (15-11 Belmont), the Marauders pulled ahead 23-16 with three minutes remaining. That’s when the Rockets took off going on a 10-1 run behind sophomore guard Jackie Malley who knocked down six-for-six from the charity stripe to go along with a 3-pointer to give Reading the half time lead, 26-24.

The third quarter resembled an alley brawl as both team’s defenses were physical and uncompromising to anyone attempting a shot within 10 feet of the basket. Two free throws from junior Kiki Christofori (tied with Malley for game high 15 points) with 35 seconds remaining closed the gap to one, 36-35, only for Reading to hit a three and a follow up with zilch on the clock to give them their biggest lead of the game, 41-35, entering the final eight minutes.

The fourth was Belmont’s as its pressure defense shut down the Rockets. Reese Shapazian’s NBA-distance 3 with six minutes remaining gave Belmont the lead, 42-41, and her second trey – a buzzer beater from a wild rebound from Minicozzi upped the lead to six, 48-42, with four-and-a-half left on the clock.

It was a wild last minute as Belmont saw its 51-44 lead to a single possession, 54-51 with 10 seconds remaining when sophomore Sarah Dullaghan (five points including a behind the head layup and a three pointer) the smallest Marauder, blocked a desperation three to effectively end the game.

Belmont will take on streaky Wakefield (7-9 but with victories over Burlington, Wilmington and Arlington) as they begin the final two weeks of league play.

Belmont Girls Hoops Beat Back Reading With Strong 4th; Boys’ Quiet Rockets Early

Photo: Maiya Bergdorf scored 7 of her 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Since the beginning of the season, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart had been waiting for her team to face a “tough” contest.

“I want to see just how good we really are,” she said.

Hart got her wish granted on Friday, Jan. 3 when the undefeated Marauders found itself down by eight, 20-12, after the first quarter against an energized one-loss Reading Memorial High squad playing before its fans.

“Reading’s a good team,” said Hart. “They work hard, they’re really tenaciously defensively and that makes them tough. They made us pay for mistakes, that’s for sure.”

Belmont remains unbeaten (7-0, 5-0 in the league) and is ranked in the top ten by both the Boston Globe (5th) and Boston Herald (3rd). On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Marauders will host a strong Melrose team sporting a 6-1 record, only losing a close one to Tewksbury. Tip off is 6 p.m.

After going back and forth with the Rockets for three quarters, Belmont mounted a 10-0 run midway through the fourth, as the Marauders’ strength, height (out rebounding the Rockets by more than two-to-one) and ability to contest Reading’s shots proved the difference as Belmont came away with a ten point victory, 55-45.

“We just weren’t near the basket in the first half and we wanted to get close to take advantage of things,” said Hart.

Spearheading Belmont’s win were sophomore Maiya Bergdorf and senior Jane Mahon who stepped up during the game. Mahon, who finished with a team-high 14 points, hit first of her first six shots, each mid-range jumpers, then went four for four from the charity stripe in the fourth.

“Sure in the beginning, we lost the tempo because we’ve been playing teams that haven’t challenged us as much as Reading and we’re playing at their pace,” said Mahon. “In the second half, we said let’s play like Belmont.”

It took Bergdorf a while to get on track, before dominating the fourth quarter by taking the ball straight to the hoop, scoring seven of her 11 points in the final stanza.

“I was getting frustrated because my shot wasn’t falling. But they didn’t have much height so if I hustled into the paint, I’d have a scoring opportunity. And if I missed I’d have rebounds,” said Bergdorf.  

“She stepped up. She’s a player and doesn’t like to lose,” said Hart of her sophomore scorer.

It was also an advantageous time for Belmont that Reading’s league MVP-candidate Haley Lightbody had her first below par game on offense this season. While a threat on defense and one of two Rockets who battled Belmont under the boards, Lightbody struggled in the forecourt, making two baskets – both 3s – and going a dreadful 3 for 15 from the free-throw line (0 for 5 in the critical fourth quarter) for nine points, more than half of her season average.

After Belmont opened the game leading 6-1 (including two blocks), it was bombs away for Reading as they hit five three-pointers, a pair each by junior guard Celia Capone and freshman guard Jacqueline Malley, to take a 20-12 lead into the second.

Belmont came out in the second quarter and pressed the ball away from the basket more aggressively as the Rockets – whose tallest player is 5’8″ – could not solve the issue of Belmont’s ability to place four players near or greater than six-feet on the floor.

“We started our zone press and that helped and we stopped turning the ball over,” said Hart.

After Reading built their largest lead of the game, 27-18, midway through the quarter, Belmont began its comeback with a three from freshman Bridgette Martin (3 points). Mahon continued her hot hand, knocking down two baskets while freshman guard Nina Minicozzi (11 points) and senior Megan Tan (10 points) were able to drive and score with Tan scoring a hoop at the buzzer to cut the deficit to two, 27-25, at the half.

Belmont came out blazing in the third, a free throw by senior center captain Jess Giorgio, a layup by Tan and a three from Minicozzi gave Belmont the lead at 31-27 two minutes into the third. But the hosts came back highlighted by its quick defense and a three from Capone to lead 37-35 with a minute to play. But an inside basket by Giorgio and Bergdorf’s putback of a rebound with five seconds remaining gave Belmont a tenuous two-point lead, 39-37.

Hart started the fourth with her freshmen guard pairing of Minicozzi and Martin to run the show with Bergdorf wanting the ball. She was promptly fouled and hit 1 of 2 as did Minicozzi before Bergdorf was fouled as she hit a power drive and made the foul shot for an old-school three giving Belmont at 43-37 after two and half minutes. Another drive by the defense by the sophomore forward/guard, the first two of Mahon’s made free throws followed by Minicozzi baseline layup built the Marauders’ lead to ten, 49-39, midway in the fourth with the Rockets sensing the contest was over. Reading cut the lead to six with just under a minute remaining but it was a little too late for a comeback. 

For Mahon, the team’s success last year – a trip to the Division 1 North sectional finals – and the perfect start so far has placed a target on the team for other squads to take aim at.

“We came into the year with this expectation for us to fulfill what the past seniors left behind. People will be out for us so we have to remember to keep pushing ourselves every day,” said Mahon.

Belmont Boys Rocket Past Reading Early, Than … Meh

The Belmont High Boys team ran away and hid from host Reading – they were up 19-4 after the first quarter and 42-18 at the half – in the second game of the girls/boys doubleheader at Reading on Friday, Jan. 4.

But it soon became apparent that both teams would play the second half with the focus and intensity of a Sunday morning suburban dads league match. It could have been the knowledge that Belmont was cruising to another win (7-0 and ranked 8th by the Boston Globe), that it was already past 8 p.m. on a Friday night or that New Year’s was earlier in the week; for whatever the reason, the play deteriorated into lots of one-on-one match ups and sloppy play. Even the fans appeared ready to head home early.

Belmont’s sophomore guard Tim Minicozzi lead the Marauders with 14 points, several driving through traffic to the hoop while back court mate senior captain Danny Yardemian hit for 13 points with several Rockets following his every move as the teams got to the finish with Belmont ahead, 62-45.

Belmont Boys’ Hockey Hit By Rockets; Girls’ Hockey’s Unhappy New Year

Photo: Belmont’s Alec Moran (6) stopped by Reading’s Matt Coughlin on Saturday’s game.

Boys’ Hockey

After an inspiring 4-3 victory over perennial powerhouse Winchester midweek, Belmont High hockey was anxious to meet another tough Middlesex League opponent in Reading Memorial High which came to the “Skip” for a Saturday afternoon matinee looking up at the Marauders in the league standings.

But the intensity and breaks came from the Rockets bench – which included seven coaches – as Reading handed Belmont its second loss of the season with a 4-1 victory on Jan. 13.

Reading produced the most chances through the game with Belmont goalie Kevin Dacey required to make a series of difficult saves throughout the game while the Marauders offense which has been led by senior winger Steve Rizzuto – who scored his third hattrick of the season against Winchester – was stifled by Reading’s Matt Coughlin in net with 21 saves and a crew of big and mobile defenders.

Reading dictated the game’s pace and direction scoring early through junior forward Mike Tobin (who is a verbal commit in lacrosse to UMass-Amherst) just a minute in. Belmont came close to knotting the game from its top line of Connor Dacey, Will Dominiconi and Rizzuto who kept Coughlin busy.

The Rockets (7-2) doubled its lead even earlier in the second period than the first, after only 45 seconds with Tobin earning the brace from an excellent pass from Jake Emery. With less than five minutes remaining in the second Reading broke through again, with senior Dan Cranitch beating Dacey on a rising wrist shot glove side. 

Belmont’s best chances came down three as the Marauders dominated the remainder of the period but did not have anything to show for it at the end of two. 

An up and down third culminated in an open net by Matt Florenza with 20 seconds left. Belmont did spoil Coughlin’s away shutout as Tim Bailey took a Dennis Crowley pass and beat the goalie just before the buzzer. After some debate, the goal was allowed for the 4-1 final.

Belmont is 5-2-3 entering its Martin Luther King Day match with Catholic Memorial. (Late edit: Belmont earns a hard-earned tie with CM with a goal from, who else, Steve Rizzuto.)

Girls perfect 2017 leads to imperfect 2018 

Belmont High Girls Hockey was on fire in the first part of the season, specifically in 2017 when it rushed off to a 6-0-0 record with a high powered scoring offense, averaging four goals a game, with a bend but not break defense

But when the calendar changed to 2018, what was ablaze was extinguished as the Marauders are 0-4 for ’18. While some of the reason is the top quality match-ups – including meeting the defending state champions and the top-ranked team this season – two defeats came on consecutive Saturdays where Belmont could not hold onto late leads away from home. 

Not that Belmont has lost its scoring touch as the team is averaging three goals per game, but rather it would appear to be an inability to sustain a team confidence it held earlier in games.

Belmont did perform well against both Woburn (’17 state champs) and Winchester (a top 5 team the entire season) losing 4-2 and 5-3. What has been troubling has been the Saturday Night Falls. Against Lexington, the team let go of a two-goal lead in its 4-3 loss. This past Saturday, Belmont arrived at the Burbank Ice Rink to meet a Rocket team that was on its own three-game losing streak. After a first period knotted at one, Belmont scored twice to lead 3-1 at the end of the second period.

But as with its game against the Minutemen, Belmont saw the Rockets dominate the third, scoring four unanswered goals to fall 5-3 and see its record dip to 6-4-0. Belmont will be away from “The Skip” until next month, Feb. 4, when they host Newton South. 

Allard Breaks Century Mark As Belmont Girls’ Soccer Downs Rockets, 3-0

Photo: Carey Allard of Belmont.

In her first varsity game as a freshman four years ago, Belmont High senior co-captain Carey Allard scored five goals including the game’s first four in an eight-minute stretch in the first half  and added an assist in the Marauders’ 10-0 blitz of arch-rival Watertown High School.

“She’s going to have some career if she can keep that up,” said Head Coach Paul Graham back in September 2014.

Just how good Allard would be since that hot summer morning was answered on a muggy and damp Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, when the four-year starter broke the career century point mark scoring a brace against visiting Reading High on Seniors Night as Belmont downed the Rockets, 3-0.

The two goals gave the co-captain 101 points with two games remaining in the season and upping her goals this season to 18 with seven assists.

Allard is the first Marauder to reach 100 points since Michelle (Sheehan) Henry accomplished that goal in 2006. Henry is currently in her second year as the varsity assistant coach with Graham. 

The record-breaker came midway through the second half with Belmont leading 1-0. Playing on her off side near the right sideline, Allard cut with the ball 20 meters from goal and hit a pinpoint shot into the left side of the net. 

Allard – who will be playing defense for Division 1 University of North Caroline Wilmington next fall – finished the scoring burying a penalty kick after she was pushed from behind inside the penalty area with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. 

While Tuesday’s game was the final home game of the season, Belmont’s 13-1-0 record will likely see it playing a pair of home playoff games in the Division 2 North Sectional tournament. And likely more points into Allard’s high school point tally. 

After Loss in League Opener, Belmont Football Readies for Reading Thursday

Photo: The Belmont defensive line.

Belmont High School Football Head Coach Yann Kumin will be looking for the offensive line to spring the running game as the Marauders play host to the Reading High Rockets on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.

The game was pushed up a day from the traditional Friday Night start due to the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur that begins Friday at sunset.

Kumin is looking to build a balanced attack as Belmont seeks its first victory of the season after going 0-3, losing it’s Middlesex League opener last week to an improving Woburn team, 27-14.

“We were excited to run the ball and they got a little blitz happy on us and we could not take advantage of that until later in the game,” said Kumin. 

“I thought we threw the ball decently but we have to balance our offense,” he said after the Woburn game.

“Going into the Reading game, we have to be able to consistently run the ball for positive yardage” in what Kumin described as “the dirty areas” in the middle of the field. 

As with the previous two games against Milton and Framingham, Belmont’s defense was able to play competitively against strong offenses. But the Marauders’ offense in each of the three games could not find its rhythm until the final half. By then, it was attempting to climb out of a very deep hole. 

Senior running back Tyler Reynolds scored both touchdowns last week, the first a 77 yard gallop up the gut of the defense with seconds to play in the third quarter and the second a five-yard plunge with 49 seconds to play. 

Reading (2-1) is coming off its first loss of the season, a 41-21 drubbing by Lexington. For the Marauders, it will be up to keeping the ball for as much time as possible with a mix of runs and passes for the hosts to stay in the game.

“We’re excited to be meeting Reading again after last year’s game when we kept it close for most of the game there,” said Kumin.

26 Years In The Making: Belmont Baseball Captures League Title With Victory Over Reading

Photo: Belmont High’s Max Meier strikes out the final batter of the game for Belmont’s 6-4 victory over Reading.

The wait is over.

Twenty-six years since winning its last league title, Belmont High Baseball will hoist the 2017 Middlesex League Liberty Division championship banner on the wall of the Wenner Field House after the Marauders captured its first league pennant since 1991 with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over defending champions Reading Memorial High with a combination of clutch late-inning hitting and a gutsy pitching performance by the team’s lefthanded ace.

“How about that league championship?!” asked long-time Head Coach Jim Brown to his ecstatic players as the speakers blasted a new version of King Harvest’s 70’s classic “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

“You had a goal right from the beginning of the season. And you accomplished it. You made this town proud,” Brown told the players.

The team – 16-3 overall and 13-3 in the league – will end the regular season taking on one-loss Division 3 leading Lynnfield (17-1) on Friday, May 26 at 3:45 p.m. at “The Grant.” The Marauders will then finish the season hosting The Brendan Grant Tournament later in the week.

The Marauders’ secured the victory with a clutch two-out, two run rally that gave junior starter Nate Espelin the margin he needed to hold on for his sixth win with a herculean 119 pitch performance over 6 1/3 innings.

“I walked too many people, but I didn’t have to worry about striking out people because we made the defensive plays,” said the southpaw, who raised his record to 6-1.

While Espelin could not match his high teen strikeout numbers that he produced against Wilmington, Lexington and Reading the first time he faced them – a 1-0 9-inning loss – he relied on his curveball “which worked a little better today.”

On Wednesday, the Marauders’ bats were working as the top four of the order – junior leftfielder Connor Dacey, junior shortstop Steve Rizzuto, catcher Cal Christofori and junior first base Dennis Crowley – went a collective 8 for 13 with two doubles (both by Christofori) and 5 RBIs.

“I think I’ve seen the ball well lately. It’s just looking bigger and getting a good piece of it and driving it the other way [to right field],” said Crowley.

Belmont got off the mark quickly against Reading’s All-Star starter Corey DiLoreto in the first with a walk, a fielder’s choice and two singles with Crowley punching a single through the infield to bring home Rizzuto. It appeared the Marauders would increase the lead as a sacrifice fly by junior Ryan Noone sent Christofori home, but the plate umpire called the senior captain out for leaving third early.

Espelin had already thrown 40 pitches in the top of the third when he walked Reading’s Joe Bradley to bring up DiLoreto who pulverized an Espelin offering over the deepest part of the center field fence (352 feet) to give Reading its only lead of the game, 2-1. The inning ended with Rizzuto going deep in the hole to throw out the batter by half-a-step.

The Marauders swiftly recaptured the lead in the bottom of the frame, starting with Rizzuto (1-3) waiting on a slow curve to belt it between first and second for a single. Christofori (3-3 with a walk) then smashed a fastball into the gap between center and left that one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double.

“[Christofori’s] enthusiasm and passion today rubbed off on the entire team,” said Brown. 

Crowley followed by taking a full-count pitch into center for a single, bringing in Rizzuto to tie the score. Junior right fielder/pitcher Max Meier continued the hitting onslaught with his own single to send Christofori across the plate. The Marauders’ final run of the inning came when Crowley scampered home on a Bryan Goodwin sacrifice fly, upping the lead to 4-2.

The title was sealed with two down in the sixth when Reading took out DiLoreto. Belmont quickly pounced on reliever Mike Rainone loading the bases on a Conner Dacey single and walks to Rizzuto and Christofori.

Dennis completed his big day at the plate battling back from a two-stroke deficit to rocket a 2-2 pitch into center to bring in Dacey and Rizzuto to double Belmont’s lead from two to four at 6-2.

“He got me down 0-2 on a pitch I thought was a little low. But what are you going to do? I took the next two pitches to even it up then got a pitch I liked and ripped it,” said Crowley who drove in half the team’s runs and scored once.

“This team knows what to do with the stick [bat] and are selective with their pitches. They work at it,” said Brown.

Those final runs were critical as Reading staged its own late rally in the top of the 7th. DiLoreto walked, and after a sacrifice bunt, consecutive infield errors and a Ben Fischer single that dropped in front of Goodwin saw the Rockets cut the lead in half to 6-4 with the go-ahead run at the plate.

“I was making sure [the athletic trainer] had the heart defibrillator ready because I didn’t know if I could take it,” said Brown.

With nearly 120 pitches in the book, Brown elected to pull Espelin for junior righthander Meier. With Rockets at the corner, Meier relied on his fastball to strikeout the 8 and 9 batters; the final punch out caught the batter looking.

After the celebrations which included running through a “victory tunnel” set up by the Boys’ Rugby team and a bucket of water over Brown’s head, the coach again heaped praise on his team and the eight seniors.

“This is the best group of kids I’ve coached. They know how to battle for the entire game, the entire season,” said Brown.

Belmont Baseball Host Reading Wed. With Winner Taking League Pennant

Photo: Belmont Marauders

It’s all on the line as Belmont High Baseball hosts Reading Memorial High this afternoon, Wednesday, May 24, in what is a one-game, winner takes all contest that will determine the champions of the Middlesex League Liberty Division.

Today’s dramatic finale to the 2017 league season saw Belmont receive a huge break on Tuesday, May 23, from a squad scrambling for its playoff life. Needing to win its remaining games to earn a playoff berth, the below .500 Winchester High Sachems nipped Reading, 4-3, to drop the Rockets’ record to 15-3 and 12-3 in league play.

Belmont was standing at 12-3 in the league as they defeated non-league Arlington Catholic, 5-0, on Tuesday, behind senior reliever Zach Colleran’s first career start. The righty spun a masterful performance on the mound, mixing his fastball with a changeup to go six shutout innings, giving up a pair of hits and earning three Ks. 

“I knew I wasn’t going to blow anyone away so I threw pitches that they couldn’t make solid contact,” said Colleran, who earned the win. Junior starter Max Meier got an inning of work in pitching a 1, 2, 3 7th.  

Colleran was helped by outstanding plays in the field including from shortstop Steve Rizzuto who dove to snag a grounder heading up the middle, throwing out the runner by half-a-step at first to end the sixth. 

Belmont cobbled together 3 runs in the second with Colleran helping himself with a RBI single followed by a sacrifice from first base Dennis Crowley and a RBI knock by senior catcher and captain Cal Christofori. 

Crowley scored in the 4th after ripping a double into right, stole third and scored on a fielder’s choice from Colleran. 

Junior pinch hitter Andrew Mazzone took a first pitch fastball 322 feet over the right field fence to add the final run of the game in the fifth. 

Wednesday’s game (start time 3:45 p.m.) at “The Grant” in Belmont will see not just attempt to grab its first league pennant in more than a decade against the defending champion but also giving the Marauders the opportunity to avenge a 1-0 extra inning loss earlier this month to the Rockets.

Belmont will throw its ace, junior Nate Espelin (5-1), to start. Espelin is coming off a 15 strikeout effort against Lexington and will face the team that defeated him this season. 

Sports: Belmont Shares League Title After Rendering Reading Redundant, 57-51

Photo: The bench and players on the court cheer what would be the game-winning basket from Greta Propp.

When Reading High’s sophomore guard Isabella Zagami hit an off-balance 3 pointer to tie its game with Belmont at 51 with less than 40 seconds in the game, it could have been a knife to the heart to the host Marauders.

But rather than dwell on what just occurred, Belmont immediately took the ball inbounds and grabbed the game by the throat and a championship into their hands.

Taking the ball from half court, sophomore forward Jane Mahon turned and headed directly to the basket. With a pair of Reading players stepping up to cut off her path to the hoop, Mahon lifted a soft, floating pass to a wide open junior forward Greta Propp who hit the easy bucket while being fouled.

“I said, ‘please, Greta, grab the ball,” said Mahon after Belmont (14-3) defeated the red hot (a nine-game winning streak snapped) Reading Rocket team, 57-51, to secure a share of the Middlesex League Liberty title with Woburn on Seniors Night, Thursday, Feb. 16.

In a game close from the second quarter on, the chemistry between the players on the court gave Belmont the victory.

“Our starters and those coming off the bench just have a great feel for the game and especially here,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart. She particularly praised sophomore off guard Meghan Tan for her standup defense and timely hoops.

“The hands that she got on the ball and the rebounds, she just made a lot of stuff happen.”

As her policy, Hart started all her seniors – the Haight twins, Reagan and Riley, Mary Kate Egan and the injured Margaux d’Arbeloff who came off after the tip – along with captain point guard Carly Christofori and junior Jenny Call. While Belmont fell behind early, 11-5 midway through the first, Hart noted it had less to do with the skills of the seniors rather the unfamiliarity of whom they were playing.

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Belmont seniors: Riley Haight, Mary Kate Egan, Margaux d’Arbeloff and Reagan Haight.

Reading entered the second up by a surprising 11, 18-5, led by its young trio of underclassmen, sophomore forward Alyssa Pryputniewicz, junior Kathryn Nestor and the Rockets’ stellar sophomore Haley Lightbody who is making her mark with her quickness and shooting ability.

Belmont soon cut the margin within two minutes with an eight-point run from 3s from Tan and Call along with a pair of free throws from Christofori “who is such a stabilizing force,” said Hart. Belmont’s 17-8 quarter – highlighted by Mahon’s pair of jumpers – allowed the slow starting Marauders to trail the Rockets by two, 26-24, at the half.

The second act was much as the first, with a paper-thin margin between the squads with Belmont’s sophomore center Jess Giorgio (4 points in the third) and Propp (7 third quarter points of her team-high 13 points) led the Marauders while Lightbody kept the Rockets in the game despite of Belmont defensive press.

The game’s big breakout came as the teams prepared for the final stanza tied at 36 as Belmont went the Stephen Curry route as Christofori and Call hit 3s from distance to take a six-point lead into the final quarter.

Belmont would keep the lead at half-a-dozen for six of the eight minutes with a basket Tan – who earlier in the quarter scored on a 3  and made two critical assists – giving the Marauders a five-point lead at the two-minute-to-go point, 51-46.

But Zagami made Belmont pay for a lazy pass with a steal with Lightbody making the hoop with 1:35 left, now 51-48. The Marauders were nearly a victim of a second steal, but Reading fumbled the ball out-of-bounds. But a Call layup on a quick pass break was stuffed by (that person) Lightbody which soon turn into Zagami’s fleeting highlight moment.

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After Propp’s hoop and free throw, Reading took a timeout to map out a sure thing play, but a momentary bobble by a Reading guard was pounced on by Tan who secured the ball to Christofori who would sink three of four from the charity stripe to secure the game.

“This team has a real confidence, we don’t get down when we are behind,” said junior guard Alexa Sabatino.

Next up for Belmont is a tough stretch of post-season matchups beginning with two games at the 2017 Spartan Classic starting Sunday against an excellent Pentucket squad with the second game on Monday. Finally, a rematch against Lowell, the only team to defeat Belmont other than Woburn.

“We want to play tough games because that will prepare us for the playoffs,” said Hart.

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Football: Belmont Stands Up To Reading In Friday Night Battle

Photo: 

There was no “moral” victory Friday night in Reading, said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin after Marauders’ hard-fought, defeat at the hands of last year’s Super Bowl finalist, 47-21,

“We played a hard-fought game, and we’re excited about it. But we live in the real world, and there are no moral victories, we believe in victories, and this was a loss. We stood tall tonight, and that was great,” said Kumin.

The game under the lights was a sea change from the games played between the two rivals in the past decade.

In the first two years of Kumin’s tenure, Reading outscored Belmont 98-0. With a minute to go in the half on Friday, Oct. 7, Belmont trailed the hometown Rockets, 24-21, each team scoring three touchdowns. A late Reading score gave the home team a 32-21 half-time lead.

“We got a great football team and to have a 10 point game at the half against this team at their home, it proves that we are not going back to the days when we lost the first half by 42 points,” said Kumin.

This match-up between the long-time Super Bowl contender against the new team was not going to follow the normal script when on Belmont’s first play from scrimmage as senior RB Ben Jones found a gap in the defense and scooted 70 yards for a Belmont touchdown and a shock 7-0. 

But Reading would take the lead on two plays – its long run of 67 yards by Corey DiLoreto and a 75-yard punt return from Jack Geiger – going up 16-7 after only three minutes. 

But it was Belmont that showed it could not only halt Reading’s offense but on its next possession, use a combination of runs – using junior fullback Adam Deese on quick handoffs – and passes to march down the field where senior quarterback Cal Christofori found junior wide receiver Jake Pollock for a 17-yard touchdown with 20 seconds in the quarter, cutting the lead to 16-14. 

The Marauders continued the momentum it had in the first by closing down the Rockets on the first drive and with runs by Jones and a 10-yard catch to sophomore Jared Edwards the Marauder offense took the ball to the Reading 40. But the drive ended when a Christofori pass went off the hands of the receiver and was picked off by senior Nick DiNapoli who returned the ball deep into Marauder territory with the Rockets scoring a short time after to retain a 24-14 lead.

But the drive ended when a Christofori pass went off the hands of the receiver and was picked off by senior Nick DiNapoli who returned the ball deep into Marauder territory with the Rockets scoring a short time after to retain a 24-14 lead.

But the setback was pushed aside as a long run by Jones, a pass interference call against Reading and a 33-yard pass from Christofori to senior wideout Dylan Ferdinand put the ball on the Rockets three-yard line. Jones then swept around the right end to bring Belmont to within three points, 24-21 with 80 seconds left in half. But it took the Rockets only 45 seconds to score its fourth touchdown in the half on a 35-yard pass from senior QB Corey DiLoreto to DiNapoli.

After the half, the Belmont offense could not find the momentum it had earlier in the game and two long Reading drives, mostly runs based on the quarterback option, allowed the Rockets to score two additional touchdowns to secure a victory in front of a small home crowd. 

“But I am proud of our guys. They fought to the last whistle. They played a great football game, and we are excited to take on Winchester at Harris,” said Kumin.

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