Photo: Belmont’s senior swingman Seth Altman driving for two of his 12 points in the season opener with Watertown.
At the end of the first quarter, the score in the opening game of the 2014-15 Belmont High Boys’ basketball season: Watertown, 16; Adam Kleckner, 8.
Without the talented senior center and co-captain playing is “A” game in the first eight minutes of the game, Belmont – which many sports observers believe the team could have a long run in the playoffs in March – was not prepared for a hustling and cocky Raiders’ team playing at home.
“Kleckner (a game-high 23 points and about the same number of rebounds) is a very talented player who can shot threes and play the outside but he’s very tough under the basket and the free throws proved it,” said Belmont’s long-time Head Coach Adam Pritchard.
In fact, Belmont clearly stumbled out to the gate, missing shots and not quite handling the Watertown defense.
“Watertown has a good basketball team with two kids who can really shoot the ball,” said Pritchard of junior guard Brendan Hoban (13 points) and senior Mike Hagopian (18 points).
“We were a little bit tentative offensively,” he said, as Belmont seemingly couldn’t find an open shot in the first 10 minutes of the game as Watertown twice took an 11 point lead (20-9 and 22-11) two minutes into the second quarter.
Seeking to spark up the offense, Pritchard substituted in senior Seth Altman (12 points) and junior Cole Bartels (6 points) which paid off when Altman swept in on a drive to score his first varsity hoop to cut the deficit to seven (22-15). And despite back-to-back sequences where Belmont players couldn’t put in four under-the-basket “bunnies,” the tide began turning in the Marauders’ favor with the Marauders
“I have to say, having [Seth] Altman coming into the game and knocking down threes and Cole [Bartels] to hit shots makes us a very potent team,” he said as the team trailed by three at the half, 26-23.
With a shaky first half in the rearview mirror, Belmont’s starters stepped up the pressure on Watertown while some old friends, the backcourt duo of co-captains senior Ben Lazenby (4 points) and junior Matt Kerans (15 points), returned to their “slash and burn” ways – quick moves to the basket or long-range shots – as they partnered for four and nine points respectively.
A 39-38 deficit flipped to a two-point lead after Kerans buried three free throws (he was fouled throwing up a trey) with 56 seconds remaining and then saw his bomb hit the front of the rim before falling in to give him six points in the final 50 seconds and Belmont the lead for good at 44-39.
“We did a much better job defensively in the second half. It just took a little bit to lock down our defense on them,” said Pritchard.
When Watertown crept close at 47-44, Altman banged in the first of two threes that Bartels matched in the final quarter as Belmont outscored the Raiders 43 to 23 to win the opener, 66-49.
“We got off to a slow start, but we had a great comeback,” said Altman who Pritchard views as the team’s “swing” man.
“It’s the other guys that make it easy. I’m just doing the simple job taking the shots,” he said.