Photo: Belmont’s Matt Kerans heading to the basket in OT v. Lexington.
Wow. Talk about pulling one’s bacon out of the fire.
Thanks to two outstanding plays by a pair of role players, Belmont High Boys’ hoopsters crawled themselves out of a deep hole they helped dig and somehow got out of Dodge with a thrilling 76-74 victory over a gutsy Lexington High squad on Friday night, Jan. 8.
“Good high school game,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard with a wry smile as the team recorded its seventh win against three losses. They are tied with Reading (6-1) with one loss (4-1) in the Middlesex League Liberty Division.
It’s never easy to come off the bench and contribute but luck for Belmont, two players did just that. A three-point bomb from the corner by Belmont junior Daron Hamparian (5 points) tied the game at 67 with 48 seconds in regulation and sophomore Tomas Donoyan’s (2 points) jumper for two after Lexington blocked a Paul Ramsey (12 points) shot with 30 seconds gave Belmont the lead at 69-67 – part of an 8-1 Marauders run in the final 100 seconds – before Lexington’s Jack Amsler forced overtime with his own bucket with 23.4 seconds remaining.
In OT, Belmont’s big man senior Joe Shaughnessy (3 of his 5 points in overtime) put back an offensive rebound to give the Marauders the lead by one, 73-72, then senior point guard Matt Kerans stole a pass and beat the game’s number one star, Lexington’s center Spencer Kendall, to the hoop to up the lead to 75-72. Two previous times Kerans attempted layups against the junior, Kendall (23 points, four blocks, more than a dozen rebounds) slammed the shot back at Kerans.
With Lexington down by one and with the ball, an attempt by sophomore guard Jermaine Fernandes fell into Shaughnessy’s hands to hit one of two from the charity stripe with 1.5 seconds remaining and with that Belmont got to sneak out of town with the victory.
“We didn’t quit when a lot of teams could have, and we made a couple of key steals and a big fast break put back which was such a heady play,” said Pritchard.
“When guys run, and they don’t quit, you can make it happen,”
Not that it appeared an hour earlier that Belmont would need extra time against the winless Minutemen (0-6, 0-4). For the second straight game (a convincing victory over Woburn), Belmont came out smoking. Behind the three-point shooting of senior guard Cole Bartels (four 3s in the first quarter before finishing with 15 points) and a three, a two and a free throw from his fellow backcourt companion Kerans (24 points, who along with Ramsey scored in in the four quarters and overtime) to accompany a smothering defense led by senior center Justin Wagner (10 points) allowed Belmont to run off to a 21 point lead, 27-6, at the end of the first.
“We had a heck of a first quarter,” said Pritchard.
But before a large crowd of supporters, Lexington started to take chunks out of the lead by throwing it up beyond the arc. The Minutemen rattled in five from distance (three from Amsler) while Kendall began drawing fouls from the Belmont front line, going 6-6 from the free throw line and ending the period with 12 of Lexington’s 30-second quarter points, and cutting the lead to a manageable seven points, 43-36, at the half.
“I think we took our foot off the throttle a little bit after a great start,” said Pritchard.
“Maybe we got too comfortable. They played well, but we got a little tired. I probably should have used some other players at the beginning of the game to save some legs. When you have quality players you don’t want to pull them off the court,” he said.
And that weariness showed in the second half as Belmont committed fouls and turnovers that Lexington feasted on. In the third quarter, seven Minutemen players scored 17 points while Belmont could only squeeze in seven total and found themselves trailing 53-50 going into the final quarter.
Those last eight minutes saw Belmont falling further behind 57-52 after the first two minutes only to tie it up at 59 with a two and a three from Bartels and a jumper by Ramsey. But when Lexington’s Amsler hit his fourth three, and senior Alex Lenrow put in a steal, Lexington held its biggest lead of the game, 67-61.
That’s when Belmont’s bench bailed out the boys.
Next up for Belmont is at 5-4 Winchester on Tuesday, Jan. 12.