Photo: Belmont’s Nina Minicozzi scoring on a floater in the lane in action at Woburn.
Senior captain Jess Giorgio said the last time she beat a Woburn team in their home gym was as a member of an eighth-grade traveling team. For her first three years at Belmont High, no matter how well the teams she was on played, the Tanners always found a way to hand the Marauders a loss.
So it was no small issue that Giorgio and her fellow seniors wanted to leave Woburn for the final time with the W.
“For the seniors, tonight’s game was really special. We were really motivated to win,” she said of the front end of Friday’s double-bill with the Belmont Boys’ against Woburn.
And the Bowd0in-bound center would go out a winner as Giorgio and her teammates turned in a spectacular defensive performance against a physical Tanner team to prevail, 45-26, as the Marauders held the hosts to four points in both the first and third quarters.
Leading the way to the promise land for Belmont was one of its youngest varsity players as frosh standout Nina Minicozzi struck for 14 points and 6 rebounds.
“It was physical but I had my teammates who helped me get open and that’s why we won,” said Minicozzi.
In the late game of the doubleheader, Minicozzi’s brother Tim joined senior captain Danny Yardemian with 19 points as the Boys’ took the lead early against Woburn and steadily pulled away throughout the first half to build a 49-27 lead at the half to cruise to an 81-65 victory.
Belmont Girls remain unbeaten at 11-0 (9-0 in the Middlesex League) while Woburn dips to 6-3 (6-3).
Having not won in Woburn for as long as most people could remember, Belmont Girls’ came into the game knowing to throw out the records against a Tanner team that had been holding opponents to 32 points per game. In the first two minutes, Woburn’s smothering defense inside clogged Belmont’s lane to the basket.
Woburn would score the first four points of the game on free throws in the first two and a half minutes. But the rest of the half was all Belmont as the Marauders would go on a 19-0 run as Woburn would not score a basket until 3:13 left in the second quarter. Sophomore forward Miaya Bergdorf’s 3 put Belmont on the scoreboard followed by one of two from the line by senior guard Megan Tan (9 points) and a sweet two off a spin move in the lane by Giorgio (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) who raced down the court to emphatically reject a shot. Tan would give Belmont an 8-4 lead at the end of one with two from the charity stripe.
The second quarter was all Belmont as Minicozzi hit from downtown as Bergdorf (12 points) dominated the defensive board with 8 rebounds in the half. A Giorgio drive for two and Tan’s bucket stretched the lead to 19-4 before Woburn could respond against a pressing half-court defense that prevented the Tanners from a clean shot or an ability to drive to the hoop.
Sophomore Kiki Christofori presented the Tanners backcourt all sorts of trouble with a smothering presence as she and senior forward Ella Gagnon (2 points) both end up with three steals.
“When I [come onto the court] I want to make bringing up the ball a challenge. That’s a big part of my game,” said Christofori, as Belmont ended the half up 24-10.
Minicozzi started the third with a running scoop shot for a basket as a Tan jumper and Bergdorf’s second 3 put Belmont up 29-14 midway through the quarter. Woburn’s late run to cut the lead to 11 (31-20) was as close as the Tanners would come as Minicozzi’s second 3 and Tan’s 3 restored a solid advantage (37-20) with five to play. Belmont’s Gagnon hit the final basket for the night with less than two minutes to put an exclamation point on the victory.
“[Belmont] played tough defense and rebounded really well against a team that makes you work for everything,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart after the game. “This was one of our more difficult games and we had to put things together a little bit more than with other teams we’ve played.”
For the Boys’, Friday was another classic example of transition basketball with Belmont capitalizing on their speed and killer shot selection to put the game out of reach for the Tanners early in the second quarter. Belmont hit five 3s in the opening frame with Yardemian and junior shooting guard Mac Annus (16 points) knocking down a pair each to open a 26-16 lead. Senior center Dan Seraderian (16 points) was able to roam under the basket ending up with 9 points (including a 3) in the second to join Yardemian (7 in the quarter) and sophomore Preston Jackson-Stevens (two 3s in the game) to extend the Marauders’ lead to 22 points at the half.
Belmont would put the game out of reach with a trio of 3s in the third from Jackson-Stevens, Seraderian and Minicozzi who has been increasingly becoming an important part of the team.
“My teammates really look for me tonight so I had some open 3s off of assists,” said Minicozzi. “The coaches are very supportive of me and my game and I’m getting more confident on the court.”