Belmont Boys’ Hoops ‘Big Three’ Bring Marauders Back To North Final With Win Over Latin Academy

Photo: Belmont’s Preston Jackson-Stephens driving to the basket.

The Boston Celtics had the “Big Three” – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – who took the team to the NBA championship in 2008.

And during Belmont High Boys’ Basketball return to the Division 2 North Finals, its had found its own “Big Three” to carry the load.

Senior guard Mac Annus and junior forwards Tim Minicozzi and Preston Jackson-Stephens have asserted their prowess in the three tournament games not just in each scoring an average of 20-plus points per game but with on-court leadership and a coolness under pressure.

And it was never more in evidence on Wednesday, March 4 in Wakefield High’s oldie-style gym where the trio accepted the challenge from a smart and quick Boston Latin Academy squad to display the grit and guts to slay the Dragons, 72-64, in an all-you-would-hope-for North semifinal.

Belmont returns to the Tsongus Arena in Lowell on Saturday, March 7, to defend its North title in an encounter with top seed Beverly – the Panthers were the 1 seed last season. Tip off is at 4:15 p.m.

The three’s dominance showed as they combined for 66 of Belmont’s 72 points vs Latin Academy with Jackson-Stephens with 26, Minicozzi 23 and Annus throwing in 17.

“They’ve been doing that all year,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s long time head coach. “There are not a lot of coaches that are blessed with three guys who are scoring for that average. It’s because they are really focused players who shot a lot but most of all they are great kids.”

Annus – who was recently named the MVP of the Middlesex League – Minicozzi and Jackson-Stephens found it difficult which of the three to defend as each has the ability to drive inside, find the assist or bury an NBA-length three point shots. Pick your poison.

The opening quarter was all Dragons, using its speed – slashing to the hoop, creating steals and winning the majority of the 50/50 ball all night long – and outside shooting to nearly run Belmont off the court and out of the game early as Latin Academy’s all-everything guard Abdulahi Aden hit for three 3s in the quarter.

The second saw the track meet ended as both teams took the game inside the paint with Belmont creeping back into the game as Minicozzi and Jackson-Stephens hit 3s to end the half down with Belmont down 33-29.

The Marauders started the third continuing to connect from long distance as Annus and Minicotti hit three consecutive 3s to put Belmont in the lead for the first time, 38-37. Slowly the Marauders advantage grew as Latin Academy shots were off the mark. An Annus 3 with a little more than a minute remaining gave Belmont its biggest lead at 49-40, before ending the quarter outscoring Latin Academy 20 to 10 in the third to take a 49-43 into the final eight minutes.

The fourth quarter saw Latin Academy come off the mat with Aden’s 11 points in the quarter leading the way. Jackson Stephens would make one of two free throws before driving for a layup to give Belmont a small three point cushion only to see Latin Academy march back to cut the lead to 63-62 when Belmont fouled on the shot near the basket.

With the ball in their hands and less than a minute to play, Latin Academy blinked, as they missed both free throws with 56.1 seconds left giving Belmont the rock and a one point lead.

On the subsequent trip down court, Minicozzi drove the baseline and was chopped down to put the junior on the charity stripe. Then, in frustration rather than anger, a Latin Academy player punched the loose ball toward the benches. The official had little option but to call a technical foul.

Annus hit the two technical free throws, Minicozzi sank his pair and Belmont retained possession. A quick foul sent Jackson-Stephens to the line who hit one of two and the damage had been done as a one point lead stretched to six in just a handful of seconds.

There was a reprieve for Latin Academy when Belmont was called for its own technical for taunting and narrowed the margin to a two possession game but a rushed shot and a foul proved the margin of victory.

Pritchard told the media gaggle surrounding him after the contest that having core players who have been this far into the tournament before is a clear advantage.

“Experience is not to be overlooked in terms of confidence. But you know that confidence is hard work, it’s determination and it’s self belief and they believe in themselves and believe in their teammates.”

As for the matchup against Beverly, Pritchard was succinct.

“They’re very good,” said Pritchard. “We’re pretty good, too.”

Boys Hoops Shut Down Rockets In Playoff Opener, Billerica Next On Friday [Video]

Photo: Mac Annus at the line vs Reading.

Belmont Boys’ Hoops began its campaign to repeat as sectional champions with an emphatic victory over Middlesex Liberty rival Reading Memorial High, 87-45, in the first round match up of the Division 2 North playoffs.

“We had a great week of practice and we played a good game on offense and defense,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

With its victory, third seed Belmont will host 6th ranked Billerica Memorial High School on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. after the team from Billerica defeated Somerville, 66-47.

The Marauders spread the rock around with three starters topping the 20 point mark with junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephens leading the way with 25 points followed by senior Mac Annus and junior Tim Minicozzi each with 21 points.

Belmont raced off to a 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter from the outside coming from threes from Minicozzi, Annus and sophomore center Kevin Logan who started the game.

Reading didn’t panic and through senior captain Taylor Marchant crept back to within five, 18-13. at the end of the quarter.

But Belmont broke out in the second quarter as Jackson-Stephens got of the snide with nine points as the junior was targeted when the Rockets began moving from under the basket to defend against Belmont outside scoring. Belmont’s solid defense and “push, push, push” transition gave the Marauders the open looks that gave them a 35-18 half time lead with Annus leading the way with 14 points including three 3s.

Reading started the second half going with a quicker but smaller lineup to spark the offense but that only allowed Belmont to dominate under the boards and allowed them to run the Rockets off the court, scoring 33 points and putting the game to bed finishing the third up 68-35.

3rd Seed Boys Hoops Meets Reading (Again) In 1st Round Playoff Matchup Monday, Feb 24

Photo: Senior Mac Annus drives against Burlington

If familiarity breed contempt, then the boys’ basketball teams from Belmont and Reading High are about to target each others shortcomings as the Middlesex Liberty rivals meet each other for the third time this season in the opening round match of the MIAA Division 2 North sectional tournament.

The third seed Marauders (16-4) and the 14th ranked Rockets (9-9) will continue their re-re-rematch on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Belmont’s Wenner Field House.

While the Marauders nearly doubled up the Rockets, 84-46, in the first meeting on Jan. 3, the second was a low-scoring slugfest as Belmont barely squeaked by the hosts, 45-42, on the last day of the month.

A win against the Rockets will see Belmont at home against the winners of the Billerica vs Somerville match later in the week.

Belmont had a solid second half of the season, with a 8-3 record, with a few hiccups along the way. The team retained the Middlesex Liberty title going undefeated in division play while knocking off the Middlesex Freedom champs Burlington, 70-61, running off a 17-2 punch-to-the-gut scoreline in the final 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.

While the squad defeated top-ten ranked hosts Catholic Memorial, it also saw its two year league and three year home undefeated streaks come to an end with losses to Freedom division foes Wakefield and Watertown. Belmont ended the season with a two-point loss to Division One Andover in the finals of the Comcast Tournament.

It was during the last half that Belmont senior forward Mac Annus joined the select few to break the career 1,000 point mark against Woburn on Seniors Night on Feb. 13.

Annus, junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephen and forward Tim Minicozzi will take on the offensive roles. Senior guard Avery Arno will join spark plug sixth man junior guard Ali Noorouzi in upping the tempo on both ends of the court. Sophomore Kevin Logan, who saw his time on the court increase after an impressive performance coming off the bench against Catholic Memorial, will add height and heft under the basket.

For long time Head Coach Adam Pritchard, the playoffs are the reward for the work the team committed to at the beginning of the season.

“They’ve been a great group to coach. They have a real bond that will important against some of the best teams in the entire state,” he said.

Kings Of The North: Belmont Boys’ D2 Sectional Champions After Dominating North Andover

Photo: Kings of the North, 2019 Belmont High School

Belmont High School senior guard and co-captain Danny Yardemian said at the beginning of the 2018-19 season he didn’t want to end his basketball career without bringing a title, make that any title, back to the school. 

On Saturday, Yardemian and his fellow Marauders picked up that long-sought after silverware and will be placing a sectional crown into the school’s trophy case as number one seed Belmont captured the Division 2 North title beating defending champions North Andover, 64-51, on March 9 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. 

“It’s mission accomplished,” said Yardemian, whose magical season continues having set new school marks for game scoring (46 points) and career points now somewhere close to 1,400. 

“I’m so proud of my team mates, we as a team worked so hard for this. Words can’t describe it. It’s surreal,” he said. 

The victory sends Belmont (23-2) to the Eastern Mass championships against the defending Division 2 state title holders, TechBoston Academy, on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:15 p.m. at the TD Garden. It will be a rematch from last month when TechBoston outlasted Belmont, 73-68, in the finals of the Comcast Classic in Woburn.

“It sounds good to me,” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard when asked his thoughts of playing for the second time on the Garden parquet floor this season – a loss to Algonquin Regional High School in January – now for the eastern Mass title.

The victory is the first sectional title since 2007 when Belmont, coincidentally, defeated North Andover before losing to Catholic Memorial in the Eastern finals.

The game was decided over the final four plus minutes of the third quarter when the Marauders outplayed an exhausted Scarlet Knights team to the tune of 17-1. The game also turned into a showcase for sophomore reserve forward Preston Jackson-Stephens who dominated the hardwood on both ends of the court coming off the bench, scoring 18 points (co-high scorer with Yardemian and North Andover’s Jake McElroy) and taking on North Andovers’ front line.

“It didn’t matter who was against me, it was the Eye on the Prize. The only person who can stop me is me, no other opponent [can],” said Jackson-Stephens.

“Preston came in and made some big moves and helped us out a great deal,” said Pritchard, in his 19th year at the helm of the Marauders.

The first half was a game of runs with Belmont stretching up to a lead only to see North Andover bounce back. After senior co-captain Ben Sseruwagi opened the scoring with a hoop and one – which was accompanied by a pose in front of the Scarlet Knights bench – Belmont fell behind 6-3 when Jackson-Stephens gave the crowd a preview of his night by driving to the basket for two than hitting a line drive 3 as part of a 7-0 Belmont run.

Behind by one, 11-10, enter the second, the Marauders took advantage of its speed and confidence with the ball. After Sseruwagi made two free throws, Jackson-Stephens had a monster block then drove the length of the court before being fouled and converting one of two from the charity stripe to put Belmont up 16-15 with 6 minutes to play. The Marauders would then run off a 12-2 spurt over the next four minutes highlighted by threes from sophomore Tim Minicozzi who ended with 9 for the game and senior co-captain center Daniel Seraderian (5 points) who played stellar defense against North Andovers’ big men.

After Yardemian hit one of two from the line to give Belmont a double digit lead, 29-19, with two minutes left, the Marauders appeared to be cruising to a big lead at the half. But North Andover would put on a furious comeback culminating with a pair of 3s from senior guard Jake McElroy and junior guard Kyle Moore (whose basket bounced three times before dropping) and cutting Belmont’s advantage to 30-29 at the break. 

The Knights came out strong early in the second half, up 38-36 when Sseruwagi tied it up with a behind his back drive to the hoop at 4:30 in the quarter. And for the remainder of the half, it was all Belmont as they ran North Andover ragged, outscoring the Knights 17-1 in a display of both ends of the floor total basketball with Jackson-Stephens starting the push with a driving hoop followed by Yardemian’s two in the lane.

After Minicozzi nailed a jumped and one from distance to increase to lead to 10, 49-39, North Andover called a time out with 1:14 left in an attempt to stem the bleeding. But Belmont took the ball from the Knights resulting in another Jackson-Stephens basket who scored eight points in the quarter while Sseruwagi (12 points) threw down seven of his own in the run.

By its end of the third quarter, North Andover was looking up at a 16 point deficit with the final 8 minutes before them. There was no response to the onslaught as Belmont eased through the fourth, going up by 20, 62-42, midway through the quarter, to claim their prize. 

For Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard, the victory was due to the “five good offensive weapons” on the court at any one time. And when the game was close at the half, “It was the players that talked about defense and rebounding.”

“The reality is that half time was all about Danny Yardemian, Ben Sseruwagi, [center] Jake Herlihy and [Seraderian] did all the talking,” said Pritchard. And that group returned to the court and proved they could walk the walk.

Finals Bound: Belmont Boys Rewrite Record Book In Playoff Wins Over Gloucester, Arlington

By: Junior Mac Annus who now holds the Belmont High record for 3 point baskets in a game with 12. Photo by David Johnedis

The Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball squad rewrote the records book in two playoff wins that propelled them to the Division 2 North sectional finals this Saturday, March 9 at UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center against defending champions North Andover.

Annus smash 3s game record in semis victory over Gloucester

There is a Baker’s dozen and after Tuesday’s semifinal vs Gloucester High, there’s a Belmont dozen as junior shooting guard Mac Annus shattered the previous program record of nine three-point baskets with an eye-popping 12 to catapult the number 1 seed Marauders’ to a 79-59 victory over the visiting Fishermen in the D2 North semis played before a packed Coach Lyons’ Court at Belmont High.

“I walk through the hallway [leading into the gym] and look at the [list of records] every day and I finally broke it,” said Annus after the game in which he scored 38 points on 12 for 14 from beyond the arc. “I was feeling confident and my teammates were finding me,” he said noting the record was “extra special” as it came in a playoff semifinal.

“[Annus] is certainly a big weapon for us to have and [breaking the record] wasn’t outside of what he can do,” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard. “I’ve seen [Annus] hit 15 in a row in practice so I 

And Belmont (23-2) would need the guard’s dead-eye accuracy as the fifth-seed Fishermen (16-7) nearly ran the Marauders off the court in a frantic first quarter. Using an upbeat offensive tempo to break Belmont’s full court press and strength under the hoop (three blocks in the quarter, two by center Marcus Montagnino who scored 19 points), the Fishermen literally raced by the Marauders to build a 17-6 lead after four minutes in the quarter.

That’s when Annus began his night, hitting consecutive treys to cut the lead to 17-12. Dueling threes from Belmont’s sophomore Tim Minicozzi and Gloucester’s Oliver (7 3s, 27 points) would see the quarter ended with the Fishermen out front 24-17.

Belmont came out of the gate fast as senior captain Danny Yardemian (18 points) slicing to the basket for two which set the stage for Annus to drop the anvil on a slowing Gloucester as the three-year varsity player drained three consecutive treys – each in front of a boisterous Gloucester student section – from beyond the arc to give Belmont the lead at 29-28.

A steal and bucket from Yardemian was countered by a two from Oliver (who ended the night and his high school career reportedly with 996 career points) to tie the contest at 31 but Annus’ fourth three of the quarter at 2:48 gave the Marauders the lead, 34-31, they would keep for the remainder of the contest, as they went into the half leading 40-31. It was a quarter where Belmont’s half-court defense and stellar play on the wings limited Gloucester to 7 points in eight minutes.

See Annus interviewed at courtside after the game here: https://www.pscp.tv/belmontonian/1BdGYOnyWjgxX 

The third quarter saw Belmont’s defense make life difficult for Gloucester’s once unstoppable offense, upping the lead to 13, 48-33, before ending the third leading 56-43. 

With the game down to its final eight minutes, Gloucester attempted a final comeback cutting the lead to 10, 56-46, through a hoop and one from senior Kenneth Turner only to see Annus tie the school’s 3s record a minute and 10 seconds into the fourth to increase the lead to 13. Shortly afterward, the junior would put an exclamation point on his night with three more from long distances (Annus was 12 of 14 from beyond 19’9″) to seal the victory, secure the record and have the large Belmont student section chant “MVP!”

Calling Annus “the best shooter I’ve ever coached” in 19 years at Belmont’s helm, Pritchard credited the unselfish work by his teammates for both locating Annus in space and setting picks to free him for his shots. 

Belmont returns to the Divison 2 North finals for the first time in a decade – the nine-seeded Marauders were defeated by Woburn, 48-45 in 2009 – as they take on defending North champions, North Andover, on Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.

Yardemian Secures Career Scoring Crown Leading Marauders Over Arlington

Belmont’s senior captain Danny Yardemian had just broken the career points record of Steven Kearns on Friday, March 1 which would usually cause the game to be halted for the new titlist to receive the game ball and lots of cheers.

But Yardemian was too busy at that moment; other than a quick arms pump, the Marauders’ leader played on as he was in the midst of turning the Division 2 North Sectional playoff game vs. Middlesex League rivals Arlington on its head. Having trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and behind by five, 46-41, late in the third, Yardemian (30 points) was in the midst of scoring six consecutive baskets in the matter of 2 minutes and 16 seconds including a floater at the buzzer to give Belmont a three-point advantage, 53-50, entering the fourth quarter at an overflowing Coach Lyons’ Court in Belmont.

Wow.

And with the help of a killer three-pointer from sophomore Tim Minicozzi to give Belmont a 58-53 lead, a critical block by senior center and co-captain Jake Herlihy with Belmont hanging onto a 59-56 advantage and a quartet of free throws – including two via a technical – by junior Mac Annus (21 points), the Marauders were able to power by the SpyPonders in an instant classic, 71-67, to advance to the semifinals vs. Gloucester. 

“It was a really hard fought game against a team that is really well coached,” said Yardemian after the battle on the court. “People were saying that they were the eight seed … they came to play and it was a great game.”

Not that it was a perfect game for the captain against the SpyPonders as the teams met for the third time this season. Yardemian – who coincidently broke the 1,000 point mark against Arlington earlier in the year – went a Chamberlain-esque 9 for 18 from the charity stripe.

“I was leaving them short [early] then it was mental,” he said.

As for his second record-breaking scoring performance this season – the senior guard now holds the single-game mark with 46 points against Lexington in December – Yardemian said the achievement is “really humbling” as his name now joins the other 1,000 point Marauders on the Field House wall. 

Belmont Girls’, Boys’ Basketball Earn 1 Seed In North Sectionals

Photo: Belmont High Boys and Girls have home playoff games.

It’s always impressive for a school’s sports team to be selected the number-one seed in a sectional playoff; it’s an honored earned by a squad for an excellence on the field throughout the entire season.

What’s even more accomplished as well as being extremely rare? Having both teams in a sport – boys’ and girls’ – each selected as one seeds. It happened this basketball season and it happened in Belmont.

On Friday, Feb. 22, at the annoucement of the MIAA basketball tournament, both Marauder teams were selected the number one seeds in their respected divisions – the girls’ in Division 1 and the boys’ in Division 2 – in the North Sectionals which starts next week.

And with the seeding come the matchups and holding the top ranks secures possibily two home games in the first round and quarterfinals for the girls and a quarterfinal match for the boys.

The girls will first play against the winner of the bye-in game between Everett and Beverly (both 10-10) on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Wenner Field House at 7 p.m. If they win on Thursday, Belmont will play the winner of the Woburn (13-7) against Cambridge (14-6) contest, time and date to be determined.

After a bye in the first round, the boys will step on the court to take on a Middlesex League rival, the winner of the Arlington (12-8) vs. Melrose (10-8) first round clash, on Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in Belmont.

Title Times Two: Girls’, Boys’ Hoops Take Middlesex Liberty Crowns

Photo: Defense has been the key to the Belmont High Girls’ league championship.

Everything was in place: a packed Wenner Field House, a celebration naming the high school’s main court after legendary boys’ head coach Paul Lyons and the opportunity Friday night for both of Belmont High School basketball teams to clinch league titles.

Girls’ Unbeaten Run Continues As Marauders Secure Crown

On Friday night, the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team played like a number one team.

In its first game since being selected the top squad in the Boston Globe Top 20 girls’ basketball poll, the 16-0 Marauders showed its dominance against its toughest league opponent, Reading Memorial, beating the Rockets, 51-39, to win the Middlesex League Liberty Division title.

“It feels amazing,” said senior center Ella Gagnon on achieve the championship at home.

“[It’s] great [to win the title] especially on this special night for Paul Lyons,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart after the victory. “It feels good instead of having our back against the wall. We didn’t want to be in a position where we’re crawling at the end of the season trying to keep up with what we’ve done.

But Hart doesn’t want her to team to ease up between the victory and the start of the MIAA tournament in two weeks.

“We still have two tough leagues left [against Arlington and Woburn] and we want to learn a lot a try to be better over the next week as we have Cathedral next week,” Hart said.

The clash with defending Div. 4 state champions Cathedral High School of Boston in the Comcast Dvinci Energy Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 16 in Woburn is starting to look like a match between the top two ranked teams in the Globe’s poll. 

On Friday’s tussle, Belmont came out firing from downtown as its league MVP candidate Megan Tan (14 points), frosh phenom Nina Minicozzi (8 points) and sophomore Maiya Bergdorf hit from beyond the three-point arc to give the Marauders a 9-6 lead. Senior center Jess Giorgio (8 points) put back the second of two offense rebounds followed by Bergdorf’s second 3 and a steal leading to a spinning layup by Giorgio saw Belmont end the opening quarter up 19-8.

“They definitely generate a lot of offense,” said Hart. “For [Tan], a lot of it comes from her defense.”

While the offense was hitting on all cylinders, it was the Marauders pressing defense is the fuel that runs the show. Despite averaging 57 points a game, Reading could not find its comfort zone with Belmont’s stifling 2-3 half court zone that had height in the middle – six players at 5’10” or taller topped off with Giorgio at 6’2″ – and a dogged crew of guards with fast hands looking for the steal or interception. For all of the Rockets power, Reading was held to miser-like six points in the second quarter as Belmont’s lead grew to 25-14.

While attempting just one shot in the game, Gagnon was a force under the basket, hauling in approximately 17 rebounds, each grabbed in heavy traffic. During a series under the Rockets’ hoop in the second quarter, Gagnon snagged four consecutive offensive rebounds in a matter of seconds.

“I just have fun with it. Defense is my thing. I just think like ‘I’m going to get this, this is mine and I go right for it’,” said Gagnon who will be playing soccer at Middlebury College next year.

“Amazing effort. Amazing, amazing. She was like a one-girl show,” said Hart of her first-off-the-bench forward.

“We do emphaize the importance of offensive rebounds because you get more chances, it’s as simple as that,” said Hart.

In the third quarter Belmont got four points each from Tan, Giorgio, Minicozzi and Bergdorf, leading to a final quarter which Bergdorf, who ended the night with 18 points, burying two open 3s. 

“I just thought to myself, I don’t have to prove myself, I just have to play my game,” said Bergdorf, who was high scorer against Reading in both games. 

“It’s a team game so I’m not going to be selfish, but, of course, if I have a shot, I’m going to take it.”

Marauders’ gets pushed late but sprints to the league title

With less than two minutes to play in the first half, already up 35-21, Belmont Boys’ Basketball put on a run over 15 seconds that all but put its game against Reading on ice, Friday on the newly named Coach Lyons Court at Belmont High. 

With the Rockets seeking to cut the advantage to under 10 before the half, senior center Danny Seraderian (16 points) came cruising to the basket and hit a cutting layup to bump the score up to 37-21. Racing down court, Seraderian outjumped two Reading forwards to drag down the rebound and swing it to sophomore Preston Jackson-Stephens (with a string of stellar games off the bench, with 11) on the go. Just to the left of the key, Jackson-Stephens feinted to the left, than powered to the basket leaving his defender hoping he didn’t break his ankles as the forward cruised in for the two. Time out Reading. 

Give credit to Reading for putting up, behind a barrage of 3s, a spirited third and fourth quarters cutting a 20-plus lead to only 10, 61-51, with 4:30 remaining in the game. 

But the comeback faded on Belmont’s next three possessions as Belmont’s other Danny, a Boston Globe All-Scholastic Division 1 player of the year candidate Danny Yardemian (30 points to lead all scorers) took control, hitting one of two from the line, scoring two with his reliable drive to the hoop before Seraderian stole the ball and drove all the way for a layup to lead Belmont on a 10-2 run to seal the 71-53 win.

The win saw the Marauders’ record now at 17-1, and ranked 8th in the Boston Globe’s Top 20 poll.

Honoring Coach Lyons, From A Player And Coach Who Knows Him Best

Photo: A collage of memories with Coach Paul Lyons.

by Adam Pritchard
Varsity Boys Basketball Coach
Belmont High School

In 1978, I first started my career in Belmont Basketball when as a third grader I was signed up for the Belmont Youth Basketball Association.  It was in its second year of existence and I fell in love with the sport. In those years following, my mom was running a needlepoint store in Belmont Center. Saturdays I would get dropped on at the high school with a bag lunch and told: “I’ll pick you up around 5:30.” Maybe it was free babysitting for her, but for me, it was the place I looked forward to hanging out at all week.

That summer, after playing organized basketball for the first time, my mom signed me up for a summer camp at Belmont High school run by the Varsity Coach Paul Lyons. It was then that I met one of the most influential people I would ever meet. I can’t say I remember much, memories are fleeting and have their own life, but I do remember coach saying my name and having me demonstrate a shooting form drill with some of the older high school players. I remember being told to “reach up into the cookie jar” and “keep your eyes on the rim.” Its hard to put to words the feelings that go into a moment like that, but I know it made me proud and wanting to work towards improving. I wanted to be part of Belmont Basketball. I wanted to hear Lyons call my name out on that court again.

DONATIONS APPRECIATED
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the Coach Paul Lyons Scholarship fund can follow the link below.Thanks!
Coach Lyons Court/Scholarship Fund

Following that camp, I committed to basketball. It was a love and the thing I wanted to do more than anything else.  It was my passion and that court was my home.  The court is where I tried out for Varsity.  Its where Coach Lyons met with me to tell me I was cut as a sophomore (a very difficult day).  It’s also where I was named a Varsity player as a junior (a great day),  named me captain as a senior when the other captain (my best friend) got injured.  Its where Coach told me why I wasn’t starting and later told me that I would start.  Its where I learned countless phrases like “success is a journey, not a destination” and “we over me,” “there is no ‘I’ in team” and “be a helper.” It’s where Belmont High School players for 25 years, in practice, would make a steal, an assist, a score, a rebound, or anything positive and here coach boom out… “NICE PLAY!”

Lyons introduced me as freshman coach in 1991, providing me a start in coaching and tutelage to work for one of the finest basketball minds I have ever met. His knowledge of the game was (and is) unparalleled and his teachings of sportsmanship and playing with integrity have been an example for countless players who had the opportunity to play on his teams.  As an assistant, I witnessed the care, precision, preparation, and fairness through which he helped develop players.  He was a master coach.

The Main Court is where I have had the privilege of coaching the Belmont High Boys Varsity for the past 19 years. As varsity coach, I have seen the lasting impact of Paul’s coaching on alumni, current players, and those kids who have been lucky enough to have him as a youth coach in recent years. Every year, I open the season with a call or calls to Lyons – his wife will verify if you need it.  Those calls continue throughout the season because the one thing I know is that I have the greatest resource a coach could ever have and I have so, so much more to learn still. More importantly, the blessings of his mentoring have only been exceeded but his generosity and friendship.

Simply put, I’m a very fortunate coach.

Proudly, with great thanks to the Belmont School Committee, and the support of our Marauder Basketball Association, The Belmont Youth Basketball Association, the Belmont Boosters, the Belmont High School Athletic Department staff, and thousands of basketball players, girls and boys alike who have played BYBA and for Belmont High School, I am honored to be able to coach the inaugural game on Friday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. vs. Reading Memorial High School, on “COACH LYONS COURT”.

It will be one one of my most cherished moments as a Belmont coach and I hope you are there to share it with me.

Solid Victories For Belmont Boys’, Girls’ Hoops Over Lexington

Photo: Belmont High’s Megan Tan (33) was high scorer with 14 points vs. Lexington.

It was a pair of solid victories for Belmont High’s hoopsters as the Boys’ and Girls’ remain undefeated in Middlesex Liberty league play as they begin their stretch runs to the tournament.

Whatever head coach Adam Pritchard told his team at halftime, he should keep doing so as Belmont’s boys’ basketball team went on a tear in the third quarter to secure its win over visiting Lexington, 91-73, in the opener of Friday night’s doubleheader, Jan 25.

While Lexington (9-4) gave Belmont a match in the first encounter in December – the game which Danny Yardemian broke the school’s single-game scoring record with 46 points – the Marauders (12-1) appeared in control on both ends of the court. Pritchard took out his starters shortly after the game started and put out his role players who kept the Minutemen at bay with sophomore Preston Jackson-Stephens and senior Jake Herlihy combined for three consecutive blocks that transitioned into a Jackson-Stephens bucket. Belmont ended the opening quarter up 18-15 as senior Matt Wu hit a 15-foot line drive buzzer beater off a miss.

Despite having the Belmont starters back on the court, Lexington took the lead, 27-25, off a 3 from senior Dante Ortiz and held it at 31-30 with 2:30 left in the half. But a pair of steals by senior Ben Sseruwagi leading to baskets by himself and junior Mac Annus (12 points in the half, 20 for the game) gave the Marauders the lead 34-31 followed by two more thefts and baskets ending with a 3 by sophomore Tim Minicozzi to finish off a 13-4 run to give Belmont a 43-36 margin at the end of two quarters.

Coming out of the break, Yardemian sprung into action scoring eight points (a bucket and free throw, an NBA 3, and a classic drive to the hoop) in the first three minutes to hike the lead up to 56-47, followed up by Yardemian and senior center Dan Seraderian dominating the inside as Belmont went on a 21-6 sprint to the finish of the quarter, as the Marauders scored 34 third-quarter points with Yardemian (ending with a game-high 31) contributing 16 points to end the third up 77-53.

After a slow start, the Belmont Girls used its trademark half-court press defense (limiting opponents to 33 points per game) to spark a flurry of 3s from a senior leader to a 57-33 win to remain undefeated at 12-0.

As both teams had limited play over the week due to exam week, the girls’ contest needed to shake the rust off in the first quarter – it was scoreless after more than four minutes – when four-year varsity player Megan Tan took her game to the outside, hitting two 3s as senior center Jess Giorgio (9 points, five rebounds, 2 blocks) was able to score inside while quarterbacking the press defense that kept the Minutemen to six points in the quarter.

Leading 12-6 at the start of the second, the Marauders doubled its score and the lead (25-14 at the end of the half) by going beyond the arc with Giorgio and Tan (two more from distance to end as game-high scorer with 14 points) leading the charge while Maiya Bergdorf and off the bench sophomore center Emma McDevitt (2 points) took control under the basket.

With the Minutemen needing to spread the court to find some outside shots, Belmont found its own opportunities as Bergdorf (12 points, 10 in the quarter) and freshman guard Nina Minicozzi (13 points) scored all of Belmont’s 19 in the quarter, nine points coming from downtown with Bergdorf connecting twice from beyond the 19′ 3/4” line.

With its press continuing to clamp down on the Lexington offense, limiting the Minutemen to six over eight minutes to lead 44-20, Belmont was able to turn to its bench early with sophomores Kiki Christofori (2 points) and Reese Sharpazian (2 points), Abby Morin (1 point) and senior center Ella Gagnon (a putback two in the paint) all contributing. 

Minicozzis Lead Belmont’s Boys’, Girls’ Hoops In Wins Over Woburn

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.”