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.