A combination of their hallmark hard-nose defense and a season’s best scoring effort highlighted a come-from-behind victory as Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball upped its record to 4-1 as the Marauders defeated neighboring Arlington High School, 62-54, in a clash of one-loss teams at the Wenner Field House on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
“They are a very good team with five who can score so this is a good win,” said Melissa Hart, Belmont’s head coach after her charges came back from a nine-point deficit (34-25) early in the third quarter to take a four-point lead (44-40) at the end of the quarter by going on a titanic 21-6 run by mixing their stiffling brand of ball-dogging pressure defense, winning rebounds all the while going on a scoring spree led by Irini Nikolaidis scoring 11 of her team high 16 points in the third.
“[Nikolaidis] was enormous on both ends of the court,” said Hart, as the defensive specialist was able to drive the lane countless times to receive the ball from senior point guard Sophia Eschenbach-Smith who dished out 10 assists and created three steals to go along with two points.
Unlike their three consecutive wins against league opponents, the SpyPonders entered the game with a winning record (5-1), a capable backcourt, a large center and players who could hit from the perimeter. After going ahead early, Belmont found it difficult corralling the SpyPonders’ shooting guard, junior Grace Carter (8 of her 13 points in the first quarter) and in the second quarter Arlington’s center, Mallory DeFeo (8 points of her game high 18 in the quarter).
With the rest of the team’s scorers falling silent, the Marauders were kept in the game by excellent shooting from freshman Jenny Call who went 4 for 5 shooting from the outside, scoring 8 of her 11 points in the quarter.
“I have to be ready when I get into the game to contribute,” said Call after the game.
Trailing at the half (28-21) for the first time since the opener at Watertown, Belmont began the comeback behind its active defense – the team finished causing an astonishing 19 turnovers by Arlington – and the ball handling of freshman Carly Christofori (who kept exploiting the SpyPonders’ defense to find teammates under the basket including senior forward Elena Bragg (4 points) and senior center Linda Herlihy (3 of her 7 points in the third).
The comeback was secured by Belmont’s edge under the boards as Bragg, Herlihy and Sarah Stewart (8 points) each who took down four rebounds.
Belmont upped the lead to 10 twice only to see the SpyPonders reduce it to four in the final two minutes but Christofori sealed the win with a three point shot and going 6 for 8 from the free throw line.
“We needed a game like this, where we have to fight back into the game, before going to Woburn,” said Hart, referring to Friday’s match with the undefeated leaders of the Middlesex League in Woburn.