Photo: All photos by David Flanagan.
Too strong, too tall, too talented.
Those were the attributes that top-seed Belmont High Girls’ Basketball demonstrated in its Division 1 North playoff opener against Beverly High School at the Coach Lyons’ Court on Thursday, Feb. 28 as the Marauders came away with a 61-35 victory.
“The last two games [of the season] we stumbled a little bit compared to the rest of the season,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart of losses to powerhouses Cathedral and Franklin high schools in the Comcast tournament. “So it was important to get our confidence up and back.”
Despite a long layoff, the 20-2 Marauders came out read hot as sophomore forward Maiya Bergdorf scored eight of Belmont’s first 10 points as the home team took a 10-0 lead as the Marauders dominated the rebounding chances.
Beverly would break into the scoring column off a 3 that banked high off the backboard by sophomore Kylie McCarthy, which sparked a 10-4 run for the Panthers cutting Belmont’s lead to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
In response, Hart sent out her “tall” lineup of seniors center Jess Giorgio, forward Ella Gagnon, forward Jane Mahon, Bergdorf as a guard with freshman Nina Minicozzi playing the point. Playing a tight half-court zone, Belmont closed down the inside for Beverly and limited the Panthers to one change under the boards. Mahon hit three midrange baskets and Bergdorf (18 points in her first career playoff action) had an easy two under the basket from Minicozzi to up the Marauders advantage to 10, 22-12.
When Giorgio missed the backend of two free throws, Minicozzi (14 “quiet” points) grabbed the rebound and put the ball through the hoop to finish the 1-2 three-point play, Belmont was up 25-12 with 90 seconds left in the second quarter and would go into the half up 27-16.
The game was decided early in the third when Bergdorf hit a pair of driving hoops and Giorgio hit a shake-and-bake hook shot before taking in a pinpoint pass for an easy two to stretch the lead to 19, 35-16, two minutes into the game. Bergdorf would finish off her eight-point quarter with a steal and basket followed by a pass from senior guard Megan Tan as the Marauders outscored Beverly 20-8 in the third to lead 47-24 entering the fourth.
“I just went out there with the mentality we’re going to have a team win,” said Bergdorf.
Notable performances in the game were sophomore center Emma McDevitt who came off the bench for 10 points and stellar defense and sophomore Kiki Christofori who started and gave yet another prime example of dogged defending against Beverly’s backcourt.
Belmont is scheduled to meet Middlesex League rival Woburn on Monday, March 4 in Belmont at 7 p.m., pending further weather reports. The winner of Monday’s game will meet Andover in the D1N semifinals possibly on Wednesday, March 6; if Belmont wins, the game will be played in Belmont.