Photo: Belmont’s Jen Call (21) looking to pass to freshman Jess Giorgio vs. Woburn.
Walking off the court after seeing her team lose for the first time this season to a top-10 (ranked 5th by ESPN Boston) Woburn High team, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart looked back and said, “I should have called a timeout. Darn.”
Hart was recalling the final sequence of the game, with the game tied at 50. Belmont’s Jenny Call had just swatted an attempted inbounds pass out-of-bounds with just under five seconds remaining in the second half.
As Belmont set up its defense, the ball went into the Tanner’s league all-star junior guard Marissa Gattuso, who dribbled to the top of the key and leaned into Belmont’s freshman Megan Tan while taking the shot as the clock ticked down to zero.
A varsity move by Woburn’s leader that was rewarded with a generous whistle from the ref, sending Gattuso to the line for two shots with 0.9 seconds left.
The veteran hit the first and missed the second, giving Belmont no time for anything miraculous and sending the Marauders (4-1, 4-1 in the Middlesex League) to its first defeat of the season, 52-51.
“You know, it was a hard fought game. I think we had a chance [to win] with the ball but … ,” said Hart. “We could have been on the other side of the score. They just had the better chances.”
If there was a lesson of the game, it was to put away teams when you have them down. Belmont held nearly 10 point leads for the majority of the first three-quarters yet could never find the run which could have given the Marauders’ a comfortable double-digit lead.
But that’s hard to do with Gattuso who left her mark on the game with a bookend performance, scoring 16 of her game-high 18 points in the first and fourth quarters. After outscoring Belmont 6-0 in the first two minutes of the game, Gattuso was effectively held in check by Belmont’s swarming defense led by seniors co-captain guards Samari Winklaar (8 points) and Irini Nikolaidis.
For the next six minutes, Belmont outscored the reigning Middlesex League champions, 19-5, behind Belmont’s sophomore point guard Carly Christofori (team leading 13 points) who found the team’s other co-captain Sarah Stewart who scored 6 of her 8 points in the first quarter as all five starters scored to give Belmont a 19-11 lead.
While Woburn (5-0, 5-0) trimmed the lead behind forward Mya Blazejowski (10 points) to 22-20 with two minutes remaining, a basket and free throw from Christofori and a layup at the buzzer by senior sixth man Sara Lyons from a pinpoint pass from Tan increased Belmont’s advantage at the half to seven, 27-20.
The Marauders appeared like it would sprint away from the Tanners at the start of the second half as Nickolaidis (10 points) hit a basket and a free throw to up the lead to 10 points as Belmont was effectively running the break. Freshman center Jess Giorgio, who was effective coming down with rebounds against the tall and physical Tanners while scoring on a nifty jumper, and Jenny Call with five third-quarter points kept the Marauders’ lead at seven the end of the third eight minutes, 43-36.
The final quarter saw the Marauders pick the worst time to go cold on the offensive side of the court while Gattuso decided to wake up. A three-pointer by Gattuso led a 6-0 Woburn run to cut the lead to one, 43-42, before Stewart hit a bucket from under the basket to up the lead to three.
But that lead was shortlived as a pair from the charity stripe from Blasejowski and a three-pointer by senior center Elle Brennan gave Woburn its first lead, 47-45, since two minutes in the game.
Nickolaidis hit two from the line and a tough layup in traffic between Gattuso’s floater to see the match tied at 49 with 2:17 left in the game. Gattuso gave Woburn the lead, 51-49, on a layup only to have Christofori make two free throws with 1:01 remaining to give the game its final tie, 51-15.
A good defensive stance saw Belmont get possession back with 35 seconds but Blazejowski anticipated Christofori’s pass to Call with 11-second remaining. It was then up to Gattuso to win it from the line 10.1 seconds later.
Next up for Belmont is a trip to Lexington Friday, Jan. 7 for the penultimate match with the Minutemen and its Fordham-bound senior guard Anne Kelly, who once scored 52 points against the Marauders. But that was at Belmont.