Belmont Girls’ Basketball Puts Up A Pair of Wins to Reach 6-3

After consecutive road losses to powerhouse teams in the Middlesex League, the Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball team last week reeled off a pair of victories to see its record jump to 6-3 overall and 5-3 in the league. 

On Thursday, Jan. 15, Belmont outscored an undermanned Waltham High School team 28-10 in the third quarter to sail by the Hawks, 67-49, at Wenner Field House. 

Tied 28-28, the Marauders’ used its quickness and ball hawking skills on defense to tire the nine-man Waltham squad, sparked by freshman point guard Carly Christofori who in a final three minutes of the third put on a one-woman show, pouring in 8 of her 12 points, stealing the ball on back-to-back plays, rebounding and caused two fouls to be committed against her aggressive play.

On one play in the sequence, Christofori ran down an errant pass and lunged to keep the ball inbounds and then scored on the subsequent foul.

“I was just trying to help the team by playing hard,” said Christofori. 

Playing her best game of the season on both ends of the court, senior center Linda Herlihy put in 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and 3 block shots while junior guard/forward Irini Nikolaidis hit for a career high 19 points, going 9 for 11 from the charity strip.

On the next night, the Marauders’ got by a one-win Winchester High team, 47-32, in a game an assistant coach of Head Coach Melissa Hart described as “one that you are not going to write home about.”

The quick turnover saw Belmont struggle to get any rhyme or reason to either the offense (no player hit double digits in scoring as Herlihy threw in 9 for the team lead) and defense for the night. It took the insertion of junior guard Samari Winklaar to lift the team’s defensive presence while scoring some much needed outside shots (4 of her 5 points in the quarter) to propel the team to a 10 point lead (24-14) at the half.

“I go in and do what ever [Hart] asks me to do; that was shooting and play strong on defense,” said Winklaar, who said she is becoming more comfortable with her teammates “as I get to know how they play and where they are [on the court.]”

With the game in hand after the Marauders scored 15 points in the third quarter while holding the Sachems to 7, Belmont was able to empty the bench, allowing several players significant minutes on the court. And out there, junior Sara Lyons put in a runner in the paint for 2 points, junior Ani Maroyan stroked a three from the outside, sophomore Mary Kate Egan battled for her 2 points and freshman Gretta Propp hit a jumper and three free throws before leaving the game with a lower-leg condition.

Belmont Boys’ Hoops Speeds By Winchester, 75-58, for Back-to-Back Wins

When faced with sudden changes and unexpected situations, the US Marines’ have an unofficial mantra it relies on: “Improvise, adapt and overcome.”

Those words have been the modus operandi for the Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball since losing all-star senior center Adam Kleckner this past Monday to a sprained ankle. On Friday, Jan. 16, the Marauders’ demonstrated it has changed to its new reality by relying on speed and a suffocating defense to race past Winchester High School, 75-58, at Wenner Field House.

“For sure, they played unselfishly and team defense. I liked our decision-making tonight that included making the extra pass that led to better shooting opportunities,” Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s head coach, told the Belmontonian.

Winchester (7-5, 3-5 in the Middlesex League) came into the game with a five-game win streak which included beating two teams – Woburn and Somerville – Belmont (7-4, 6-2 in the league) lost to in the past week.

Pritchard said the team focused on Winchester’s senior captain Michael Grassey, who had been scoring 25 points per game.

“We made him a focus because he’s the key to their offense,” said Pritchard.

But it was the speed of Belmont’s backcourt, junior Matt Kerans and senior Ben Lazenby, proved to be the decisive factor Friday as the pair took on the Sachems’ undersized guards time and time again through the middle or around the edge, allowing for chance to head to the basket or dish to a teammate. Benefiting from the pass-offs were junior centers Luke Peterson (6 points) and Justin Wagner (7 points).

On one particular rush up court, Lazenby burst down the wing caused the Sachem forward to look back down the court, and the pass went into an open Peterson for the easy two.

By the time the duo – who have played together for the past three years – left the court in the fourth quarter, Kerans (20 points) and Lazenby (22 points) had topped the scoring table.

Joining the pair in double digits was senior forward Seth Altman (12 points) who led the Marauders with a three and two hoops in the first quarter, all the while using his wide wingspan and aggressive presence to make life difficult for the Winchester forwards.

Yet the pressure defense and the full-court press employed during the game was a team effort, employed by seniors Jaemar Paul (4 points), Tom Martin (2 points) and junior Joe Shaughnessy (2 points), who came off the far end of the bench to contribute a pretty turnaround jumper and take a charge on the other end of the court on the next play.

Winchester pulled back an early Marauder lead down to two (32-30) with two minutes remaining in the first half, but a Lazenby bucket and a pair of foul shots from Kerans before a Altman jumper at the buzzer gave Belmont an eight-point advantage (38-30) at the half.

Within the first six minutes of the third quarter, Belmont’s in-your-face D and fast break saw the Marauders go on a 13-6 run and a 15-point lead (51-36). And when Wagner took a Lazenby miss and converted while being fouled, Belmont’s advantage jumped to 17 points (61-44) early in the fourth which sealed the team’s 7th win.

“The game is only 32 minutes and there were guys coming off the court exhausted. That’s what you want to see,” said Pritchard.

Tuesday, Jan. 20, Belmont heads to Wilmington (5-5, 4-4 in the league) where they will meet the Wildcat’s 6-foot, 10-inch senior center Connor Bennett, who is coming off a 34 point, 20 rebound and 6 block shot performance in its Friday win over Stoneham and 39-points in a loss in the game previous vs. Watertown.