Sports: Belmont Girls Hoopsters Go Out Fighting Losing Playoff Semis to AC

Photo: After the game.

With less than two minutes remaining in its electric semifinal slugfest against Arlington Catholic, the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball squad was facing a 10-point deficit, 45-35, that had been building since the start of the final quarter.

Arlington Catholic’s tight, man-to-man defense stymied Belmont’s offense for most of the quarter leaving the Marauders in a hole that appeared was too deep to climb out. Usually, at this point, a team will concede to its fate, that defeat is inevitable. Throw in the towel. Put on a good face. Surrender.

But Belmont came out and did what was brave; and fought. 

In front of a large and noisy student section that made the neutral-site Wilmington High School gym feel like a home game, the Marauders’ began its comeback on the back of junior point guard Carly Christofori (a team-high 19 points) who drilled a 3 point shot with 1:50 remaining to nudge Belmont closer at 45-38.


Down on the other end of the court, sophomore center Jess Giorgio grabbed one of her dozen rebounds (a playoff double-double with 13 points) and rushed down to be fouled by AC’s center Lena Perez (a game-high 21 points) at 1:34. One of two free throws cut the lead to six, 45-39.

The Cougars couldn’t extend the lead as Christofori stole the ball and raced to the basket. Despite contact on her way up by Dolan, no foul was called, and Giorgio’ toes step out of bounds after wrestling the ball from Perez with 66 seconds remaining.

But Belmont got the ball right back as junior Jenny Call (7 points) tied up senior Alexandra Ball (5 points) for a jump ball with the arrow pointing in Belmont’s direction. Then sophomore guard Meghan Tan (5 points) rammed home a 3 from the corner as the student section erupted with the game was down to a single possession, 45-42, with 50 seconds left.


It appeared Belmont had stopped the Cougars with a missed shot, but a foul was blown (with Tan fouling out), and Dolan (15 points including 9 in the final stanza) made two shots to put the lead up to five, 47-42, with 47 seconds left on the clock. Down on the other end, Call was fouled going through the lane but missed the front end of a one and one with 40 seconds left. 

Needing to foul, Gorgio received her fifth (and fouling out), and Donlan made one of two from the charity stripe to up the advantage to six with 21 seconds to go. But AC’s lead was cut in half, 47-45, after Christofori nailed her fifth 3 in the game with 10.6 seconds left.

And it was here that a mysterious time out took the ball from Belmont’s hands.

After a score, a player has five seconds to put the ball into play, or it’s a turnover. And Belmont pulled out all the stops to find a way to retake possession, employing a press across the court with Call in front AC’s Ball attempting the inbounds pass. With the ball in Ball’s hands, the officials began counting up: one, two, three – Call jumping up and down giving Ball nothing to aim at as Marauders took away any option to get the ball to a teammate.

Four … and five. The official along the baseline raised his arm to signal the violation and pointed in Belmont’s direction as the student section exploded. This was the break that would allow the Marauders’ at least a final chance to take a three-point shot to tie the game. 


But … 

At the other end of the court came the chief official of the three-member crew. While it did not appear a time out was official signaled anywhere on the court, it appeared something had occurred 80 feet away. The two officials huddled for 10 seconds. The verdict: a time out no one saw or heard. Arlington Catholic’s ball under the basket as Belmont’s players, coaches but not their fans were left speechless.

Given a second opportunity, Ball passed to Donlan who was fouled with 9 seconds left. She would make one of two to give AC a four-point lead. And for the sixth time, Christofori dropped in a 3, a 3 point bucket which could have, would have tied the game, if … 

But it only drew Belmont within a single point of the Cougars as the final buzzer sounded. 

For Melissa Hart, Belmont’s head coach, there wasn’t much she wanted to say about the controversial play other than she disagreed with the mystery call.

But she did want to talk about her team, which ended the season at 17-5, the same record as the 2008 team.

“They really fought hard; they gave everything they got. Things just didn’t go our way,” she said, noting that for one of the few times in the season its free throw shooting was lacking, going 7 for 16 and missing 3 of 4 in the critical fourth quarter. 

‘You’ve got to make your free throws to move on at this stage,” she said.

“Give it to [Arlington Catholic] they make the shots down the stretch. It was a one-point game,” said Hart as AC hit 8 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter. 

It was a game in which Belmont’s zone defense stood in mark contrast to AC’s man, as both teams struggled to find an offense early in the contest.

After knotted at 5, AC began working the give and go with its centers to gouge out a 13-9 lead after one quarter with Giorgio scoring six points. 


With the inside clogged for Belmont, Christofori used what she was given, scoring consecutive 3s at the start of the second to give Belmont the lead at 15-13. Despite some trouble with poor shot selection, AC would go on a 7-0 run just past the midway mark only to see Christofori make her third 3 to come closer and then a fourth 3 to bring Belmont within one, 23-22, as the half ended. 

While Christofori excited the crowd with her shooting performance, Hart said it was troubling that Call’s single free throw was the only other Marauder point in the quarter.

“Carly and Jenny are great players but you can’t just rely on them or just one player making all your baskets. Everyone has to start scoring,” she said. 

The third saw Belmont final lead of the game as Call scored from a distance, 25-23. Arlington Catholics would twice move ahead by five (the last being 32-27 only for Giorgio to power home with two baskets to cut the Cougars’ lead to one, 32-31 in AC’s favor at the end of three quarters. 

The fourth quarter was the first time AC would not struggle with their shots, going up 41-35 at the four minute mark and finally by the 10 point margin with only 120 seconds left. 

As AC, the number 5 seed, meets Hamilton-Wenham, the 6th seed, in the north sectional championship on Saturday, Belmont goes out with the knowledge that next season it will return its entire starting lineup and most of its bench on a team that won 17 games. It will also face the challenge of moving up to Division 1 – due to increased student enrollment – in which Belmont will be placed against a slew of large suburban and city schools.

Next season is only eight months away.


IMG_8853 IMG_8859 IMG_8868 IMG_8874 IMG_8891 IMG_8910 IMG_8912 IMG_8922 IMG_8933 IMG_8940 IMG_8941 IMG_8957 IMG_8991 IMG_9000

Championship Bound: Belmont Upsets Arlington Catholic for Spot in Sectional Finals

Photo: Samari Winklaar (center) after the team’s victory vs. Arlington Catholic. (photo by 

With just seconds left in the third quarter and Belmont with a tenuous three-point lead over favorite Arlington Catholic, Belmont High’s senior co-captain Samari Winklaar wasn’t thinking about playing it safe and holding onto the ball near the right corner of the court to allow the clock to run out.

“I knew I was going to take that shot,” said Winklaar.

With a pair of Cougars draped over her and off a bad angle, Winklaar half pushed/half flung a prayer towards the basket as she fell into the first row of the benches in the Billerica High gym in front of a bus load of noisy Belmont fans.

And as the buzzer went off, the prayer was answered as the ball hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

As Winklaar (who led Belmont with 13 points (2 threes) and going 7-8 from the free-throw line) dove into her teammates arms, the Marauders’ lead doubled to 29-23 while the confidence of the 2014 State Champions was all but crushed by the improbable hoop.

“We said ‘we made it this far, we just need to keep going,” said sophomore point guard Carly Christofori. 

Employing its trademark suffocating defense and running past the Cougars in the third quarter, Belmont defeated the three seed – the third higher seed the team has beaten – in a Division 2 North semifinal thriller, 45-38, on Tuesday, March 8. For the first time in decades, Belmont will play in a sectional final on Saturday, March 12.

“We kept our composure well. We didn’t rattle easily today and even though we had trouble scoring, we gritted it out,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart.

[Unfortuantly, the game was virtually ignored by the three major sports outlets – the Boston Herald, and ESPN Boston – while the media focused on nearly all other playoff games on Tuesday.]

While the time and location remain to be determined, the Marauders’ opponent will be the winner of the Triton/Watertown match on Wednesday, March 9, which could result in a dream match with the defending Division 2 North champions attempting to repeat with its traditional rivals standing in its way.

“Another shot at Watertown. I love it,” said Hart.

Belmont is heading to the finals on a foundation of a tenacious defense that proved as psychologically devastating as it is physically exhausting for Arlington Catholic. 

“Our defense frazzled them, and Arlington Catholic is a good team,” said Hart as Belmont’s in-their-face defensive approach prevented the Cougars from running its set plays, requiring them to search for alternatives, and launching more difficult shots.

In the key matchup of the game, Arlington Catholic’s big players 6′ 1″ Lena Perez and 6’3″ Demiana Fogarty were kept in check by Belmont’s counterparts; senior Sarah Stewart and freshman Jess Giorgio.


(from left) Jess Giorgio and Sarah Stewart.

“The problems for us happened when she got the ball, so we just tried to stop her from getting it. She didn’t have much success because she wasn’t getting that many put-backs,” said Giorgio after the game.

And it is no coincidence that the effort opponents need to put out against Belmont has affected them in one important area. Against Belmont, the three opponents have gone 29-74 from the free throw line, a dismal 39 percent. Last night, AC hit 8 of 22 from the charity strip, about 36 percent.

Belmont came out shooting in the first, but only hitting a fraction of what they put up, finally scoring on a Jenny Call baseline bucket and a foul shot to give Belmont the lead, 3-2, after three minutes of play.

Call hit a floater to bring Belmont within one, 8-7, before Winklaar swished a three to give Belmont a 10-8 lead entering the second quarter.

While Belmont kept the Cougars to seven points, the Marauders’ only found the basket once, via a Stewart jumper as the teams went into the half 15-12 AC.

The Cougars took its biggest lead when freshman guard Erin Donlan hit a straight away three giving her team an 18-12 lead. But an Irini Nikolaidis put-back of an offensive rebound, a Meghan Tan layup, a Giorgio free throw and a Tan three at 2:47 in the third tied the score at 20.

In the final two-and-a-half minutes, Belmont made its move: after Perez had missed a pair of free throws, Stewart hit a jumper, Giorgio took a perfect pass from Tan to hit her only basket of the night and Winklaar hit both free throws after being fouled with 50 seconds remaining. With a three point lead and 20 seconds remaining, Belmont didn’t get the shot they wanted, but Winklaar made it count.

Neither team was all that productive in the first four minutes, with Belmont stretching its lead to 34-24. And while AC cut the lead to four, 36-32, with two minutes to play, a Stewart spin jumper for two, and a slew of Marauder free throws shut the door on Arlington Catholics comeback. 

When the final buzzer went off, the Belmont players exploded off the bench as they thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. 

“With had so many fans come here, we had to give them what they came for, and that was a win,” said Christofori.


Photo by Kenneth Leinbach


Photo by Kenneth Leinbach


Photo by Kenneth Leinbach


Photo by Kenneth Leinbach


Photo by Kenneth Leinbach

IMG_1699 IMG_1700 IMG_1702 IMG_1706 IMG_1713 IMG_1719 IMG_1727 IMG_1733 IMG_1734 IMG_1739 IMG_1741 IMG_1742 IMG_1746 IMG_1750 IMG_1751 IMG_1752 IMG_1761 IMG_1764 IMG_1765 IMG_1766 IMG_1770 IMG_1773IMG_1785 IMG_1787 IMG_1789 IMG_1790 IMG_1795 IMG_1798 IMG_1801 IMG_1817 IMG_1821 IMG_1824 IMG_1828 IMG_1831 IMG_1834 IMG_1838 IMG_1841 IMG_1850 IMG_1852 IMG_1870 IMG_1875 IMG_1879 IMG_1883 IMG_1886 IMG_1899 IMG_1912

Time Change: Belmont/Arlington Catholic Sectional Semis at 5:30 PM Tuesday

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team.

Tipoff for today’s Division 2 North sectional semifinals Tuesday, March 8, between Belmont High and Arlington Catholic, has been moved up to 5:30 p.m. from 7 p.m. 

The matchup between the 10th-ranked Marauders (13-9) and the 3rd-seed (19-3) Cougars will take place at Billerica High School.

Belmont is the third Middlesex League team Arlington Catholic has met in the tourney, having beaten Wakefield (in overtime) last week and Melrose on Sunday. Belmont has upset its first two higher-seeded opponents, Marblehead and Newburyport, to reach the Division 2 North sectional semifinals for the third time in four years.

AC is led by seniors Demi Fogarty and Marie Gaffney – Fogarty had 22 points and wrapped up 15 rebounds in the Cougars’ latest win and Gaffney had 24 points against Wakefield – while freshman Erin Donlan is capable of hitting open threes.

Belmont uses a smothering defense to generate its offense which is led by sophomore guard and Middlesex all-star Carly Christofori. 

Sports: Volleyball’s Historic Journey Ends at 6-Foot, 2-Inch Roadblock

Belmont High School’s Volleyball historic journey ended Tuesday night, Nov. 4 when it ran into a six-foot, two-inch roadblock stationed in the middle of the Arlington Catholic High School court.

The big obstacle Belmont faced was Cougar’s middle blocker “Demi” Fogarty, who did not just possess killer skills in a 72-inch frame but was accompanied by a supporting cast which could hold their own against most teams in the Div. 2 North Sectionals without Demiana situated at the net.

While the Marauders (who arrived 35 minutes late due a bus flub up) kept their spirits high though out the quarterfinal match played in a gym straight from “American Graffiti” – small, old fashioned with squeaky, wooden floors that bounced when you jumped on it – they couldn’t keep the ball from Fogarty’s wide wingspan as the junior swatted away balls and smashed passes for point after point for Arlington Catholic (19-3).

After 45 minutes, Belmont, who entered the tournament as the seventh seed, walked off the court after losing to the second-seed in a three-set sweep (25-13, 25-9, 25-19).

Belmont’s season ends with a record 16 wins (16-6) and a playoff win – a 3-2 victory over Danvers High on Friday, Oct. 31 – the first since 2010.

While Belmont had scouted AC’s first playoff game against Tewksbury and had practiced on double blocking Fogarty, the became quickly evident that the middle hitter was going to be a handful as she slammed an above-the-net kill for the first point of the game.

While Belmont was able to capitalize on some iffy play selection from the Cougars, the home team was also able to set up Fogarty or six-foot sophomore Lena Perez to strike a power shot at the Marauders’ back line.

Senior middle blocker Alexandra Davis‘ kill gave the Marauders’ its final lead in the first game at 6 before AC went on a 12-4 run behind Fogarty and senior libero Danielle Sullivan.

The second set saw senior setter Becki Sandvos contribute with a few nifty kills from a mid court position yet the Cougars were ever present at the net, able to turn back Belmont’s kill attempts or force shots high and out.

“[Senior] Rosy Fitzgerald was extremely consistent and was 20-for-21 hitting with eight kills. She also was 10-for-10 digging and 16-for-18 on serve receive,” said Coutour.

“Senior libero Sam Nelson also had a good game with great passes and was 22 for 22 on serve receive,” the coach said.
“Yvette Kleinbock had our only big serving run early on in the third set” with six straight points to knotted the score up at 12, said Coutour.
But after the Belmont side out, “Fogarty rotated into the front row and we had a hard time getting any momentum back,” said the coach.
The 2014 season will remembered for the eight seniors – Davis, Julia Dexter, Fitzgerald, Kleinbock, Nelson, Yeonjae Park, Sandvos and Julie Yu – who anchored the team to more than a dozen straight set wins and losses to only playoff-bound teams.