Disappointment. You could see it in the face of Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart after the team took a tumble against host Lexington High School on Tuesday, Jan. 13.
The 54-46 loss was a step back for the Marauders, who have lost two consecutive games and falling to 4-3 overall and in the Middlesex League after reeling off four straight victories.
“We were enjoying that we were that good,” said Hart of the four-game winning streak that included a victory over a strong Arlington High squad. “We have to get our focus back on basketball.”
Tuesday’s game saw Belmont never getting into the rhythm offensively it has shown since the opener with Watertown with only junior Irini Nikolaidis reaching double digits (16 points) to lead the Marauders.
And Belmont needed to up its point production as it faced someone in white and gold many of the girls’ knew only too well. Minuteman guard Anna Kelly is just a junior but has already topped 1,000 points in her career – in a game played in Orlando at the ESPN complex – while dropping 43 points against a team from California a few weeks ago. She is a superstar – she is projected to be playing top-flight Div. 1 basketball in college – that makes a very average team very good.
But Belmont knows Kelly best from last year’s match at Wenner Field House when she scored 52 points against the Marauders, a Lexington school and Belmont gym record and the third-most points by a girl in recorded state history.
Tuesday saw a more human side to Kelly, missing more shots than making and throwing up an air ball (!) while being defended by senior Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (3 points) and junior Sarah Stewart (6 points).
And while the Belmont defenders kept Kelly to “only” 24 points, whenever Lexington (6-4, 5-2) needed a basket to first take the lead (a jumper to make it 13-11 in the first quarter) or to stem a Belmont comeback (a running layup to up the Minutemen’s lead to 21-18), Kelly was there to drill another basket.
Adding to Belmont’s frustration was allowing Lexington to take uncontested three point shots. The Minutemen scored a three pointer while extending their lead including a gut-punch buzzer beater from 25 feet by junior Eleanor Van Arsdell (6 points) to end the first half, 28-22.
“Our worst statistic on defense is allowing three pointer. And they are starting to really hurt,” said Hart, pointing to Woburn who scored 5 threes.
With the lead in hand, Lexington dished out what Belmont usually does to opponents, applying close, man-to-man defense over the entire court. With the exception of freshman Jenny Call who hit a pair of threes, Belmont’s seeming reluctant to take outside shots forced the ball down low near the basket, only to find four Lexington players waiting in the paint. For Belmont’s forecourt of senior center Linda Herlihy (4 points), Stewart and senior Elena Bragg (4 points), it was like dancing in a crowded phone booth.
Belmont did rally to keep the score close (35-31), coming within three points (38-35) when freshman point guard Carly Christofori (4 points) hit two from the charity stripe with a minute remaining in the third quarter.
But there was that girl Kelly with a pair of jumpers to up the lead to 42-35 at the end of the quarter. An 11-0 run in the fourth sealed the deal for the Minutemen.
Next up for Belmont is an out-of-league matchup with Waltham High at Wenner Field House at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15.