Tripleheader Thursday: Belmont Hockey, Hoops Semifinals Crammed Into One Afternoon

Photo: Belmont v Woburn at Woburn. (credit: David Flanagan)

Blame it on the nor’easter. Besides nearly a foot of snow and an awful morning commute, the big spring snow storm has rearranged the MIAA playoff schedule to where three Belmont High sports teams will be playing nearly simultaneously on Thursday evening, March 8, making it a heartbreaking decision for fans and some families which games they can or can’t attend.

The big move creating this triple play of Belmont playoff action occurred Wednesday, March 7 when the MIAA, the governing board of interscholastic sports in Massachusetts, postponed a slew of hockey matches including the Division 1 North sectional semis between Belmont, 12-6-4, and Waltham, 15-5-2, to be held at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell due to the increasing severity of a coastal snow storm. The board moved the contest up a day to Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Belmont will seek to continue its inspired streak of victories including defeating defending Super 8 state champions Arlington, 3-2, on a last minute goal. The winner plays in the North finals on Wednesday, March 14 in Lowell.

The move by one day puts Belmont Hockey in direct competition for fans and attention with Belmont’s two basketball teams who are playing its own doubleheader. At the exact moment the puck is dropped in Lowell, tip off is scheduled for the grudge match between two of the best in the Division 1 North sectional as fourth-seed Belmont Girls’, 18-3, takes on number one Woburn, 19-12, taking place at Burlington High School. The game is the third between the Middlesex League rivals with each team winning at home and sharing the league title. The winner will play on Saturday, March 10 at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena.

Immediately after the game, fourth-ranked Belmont Boys’, 17-5, will also meet Woburn, at Burlington High with a 7:30 p.m. start. The eighth seed Tanners, 15-7, will attempt to break its winless streak this season against the Marauders, beaten at home, 69-67, and at Belmont, 85-57. Belmont has won 10 consecutive games and are one win away from playing at the Tsongas Arena for the Division 2 North title on Saturday, March 10.

After Dominating Wins, Belmont Boys’, Girls’ Hoops Meet Woburn In Semis Doubleheader

Photo: Jake Pollack under the basket vs. Melrose.

The Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball teams are off to their North Sectional semifinals against Middlesex League rivals Woburn High on Thursday, March 8 after the both Marauder squads dominated their quarterfinals over the past weekend.

The doubleheader – the girls’ play at 5:30 p.m. and the boys’ at 7:30 p.m. at Burlington High School – was pushed back a day due to Wednesday’s pending Nor’easter. 

Tan’s career night leads Girls over last year’s champs Andover Saturday.

Just a little bit of self-confidence went a long way for Marauders’ junior guard Megan Tan on Saturday, March 3, against defending Division 1 North titleholders Andover High as Tan scored a career-high 27 points including three from beyond the arc as Belmont eased past the Golden Eagles, 68-46, in the Division 1 North sectional quarterfinals played in Belmont.

One would think that a three-year starter and mainstay of Belmont’s smothering defense would be at ease on the court. But Tan said this season she’s been struggling with mostly her shot selection.

“Throughout the year I’ve kinda struggled with my confidence. [Belmont Head] Coach (Melissa) Hart and I talked about it a lot. So today I had my head in the game,” said Tan after the game.

“I was playing like I wanted to play tonight and it worked out,” said Tan, who also contributed two assists and three steals for baskets resulting in six points.

But from Hart’s view, the victory was achieved by more than just giving the ball to Tan and watching her score.

“Everyone played really well. It wasn’t one of those one player games. It was a team win,” said Hart

Tan (a layup and the first of her threes) and Belmont got off to a quick start, up 7-0. Andover came back behind junior guard Gia Bramanti (6 in the quarter, 12 for the game), who at 6 feet towers over Tan who was covering her on defense, with the first quarter ending with the Marauders up two, 15-13 with Tan collecting 9 points in the stanza.

Up 18-16 early in the second, Belmont began grinding the game out, play by play, starting off with a trey from senior Jenny Call (6 points), the team’s career leader in threes. Junior Jane Mahon (6 points), Belmont’s sixth man, hit her trademark short jumper followed by workhorse senior forward Greta Propp’s layup (2 of her 10 points), Mahon again scoring in close with senior point guard Carly Christofori (6 points and a team-leading 6 rebounds) spinning in for two of her six points and suddenly Belmont was up 1o, 29-19, with 2:40 left in the half.

On the other end of the court, junior center Jess Giorgio (9 points) blocked a Bramanti runner while the team’s pressing pressure caused a traveling call on Andover on the next possession.

“Our defense frustrated them, and that was the real difference,” said Hart. Tan’s second three would give her 15 while the defense held the Golden Eagles to six in the quarter as the Marauders led at the break 34-19.

Belmont continued pressing its advantage in the second half as it steadily opened up an ever-increasing lead. The final quarter resembled a rec league game as the defense took a seat on the sidelines. 

As for meeting co-Middlesex League champs Woburn (19-2) for the third time this season – each team winning at home – “it will be a game of wills,” said Hart.

“It’s kind of nice to play them again because one of us can put this debate to rest. Hopefully, it’s us,” said Hart.

Slow start, fast finish as Boys’ dismantle Melrose

Trailing 11-0 to Middlesex League-rivals Melrose High after the first three minutes was not how Belmont High’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard was expecting from his team which just dismantled Charlestown High, 72-47, on Feb. 27. 

The Raiders arrived at the Wenner Field House looking for its second big playoff win after upsetting five-seed Masconomet earlier in the week and came out against the Marauders’ going right at the basket while deploying a 2-3 zone that cramped Belmont’s offense. 

But for Pritchard, the optimum word during the Raiders’ early run wasn’t “panic” but “patience.” 

“It was scary. They were really prepared to play, and we had to change things defensively to get it going. We took some chances, and it worked out,” said the longtime coach as his team proved their standing as the fourth seed by dispatching Melrose, 72-52, on Sunday night before the Academy Awards. 

A driving hoop by junior all-star Danny Yardemian put Belmont onto the scoreboard and senior forward Will Ellet first of five threes cut the lead to 11-5. 

While Yardemian and Ellet (each finishing with 17 points) were taking their game outside, the dirty work under the basket was assigned to senior center Jake Pollack that once again was looking up to a taller opposite center. Pollack’s presence came with a pair of offensive rebounds and a putback basket to tie the score at 13 with less than a minute remaining in the first. The quarter ended with Yardemian acting as a teacher, schooling the Melrose defender with a step back jumper to give Belmont its first lead of the game, 15-13. 

“We were resilient in the first quarter. A lot of teams can go down and get it into their heads. But we kept on going. We wouldn’t let the score take us from our game,” said Pritchard.

The second quarter was a back and forth affair knotted up at 20 with 4 minutes remaining as Belmont freshman Tim Minicozzi scored 5 of his 7 game points subbing for Yardemian who picked up his second foul early. Melrose took its final lead at 22-20 at 3:24 but it would be the Raiders’ highwater mark as Belmont’s pressure defense created a 10-second half court violation followed by yet another Ellet trey. As an explanation point, Ellet hustled down court to administer a monster block on an attempted layup which resulted in a 30-second violation.

With two minutes left in the quarter, Ellet’s fourth three of the half preceded Yardemian’s own three before the point guard spotted Pollack under the basket for a pair. Junior Ben Sseruwagi’s up and in (2 of his 8 points) and a Pollack block and rebound preserved a Marauders lead at the half, 33-26.

The third quarter is where the cream rose to the top as Belmont’s team defense and talent blew the game open as the Marauders outscored the Raiders’ 31-8 with Pollack battling for five of this 10 points before leaving the game due to a “turned ankle,” according to Pritchard.

“I had to hustle on both sides of the ball, get a defensive rebound than sprint down court and get an offensive rebound and put back. Every time, just outwork the other big guys,” said Pollack. 

By the fourth, both teams gave their reserves an opportunity to grab a few playoff minutes with Belmont using every one they could find on the bench.

For the second game running, Pritchard praised Pollack’s battling nature on the boards.

“We play a smaller lineup, and we have a kid who is going after rebounds, blocking shots and pressuring full court. He’s a special athlete. That motor is something,” Pritchard said.

Woburn (15-7) is a familiar opponent for Belmont (17-5) having beaten the Tanners both times they faced them this season. 

“I love [the Woburn coaching staff],” said Pritchard. “The coach is a good friend of mine, and the kids on both teams are very familiar with each other so it should be a heck of a game. It should be fun.” 

Yardemian Powers Belmont Boys Hoops Into Sectional Quarterfinals After Dispatching Charlestown

Photo: Danny Yardemian drives to the basket.

As Danny Yardemian was greeting fans and family after Belmont High Boys’ Basketball’s playoff opener against Charlestown High School, a fellow student looked at his classmate and said one word: “MVP.”

Anyone who witnessed his performance Tuesday night, Feb. 27, could hardly disagree with that sentiment. Playing near the top of his game, Yardemian showcased his talents by pouring in 35 points, handing out numerous assists and quarterbacking Belmont to a comprehensive drubbing of Charlestown, 72-47, in first round action in the Division 2 North sectional playoffs held at the Wenner Field House.

“I was just focused on the game,” said Yardemian, after the game. “I was just trying to be more aggressive as it’s the playoffs while trying to be more of a leader so my teammates can make more plays.”

“You’re fortunate to have a kid who works really hard, who’s skilled and can create shots out of the offense,” Belmont Head Coach Pritchard said of his junior point/shooting guard.

Belmont, at 16-7, will host Middlesex-rival Melrose High on Friday, March 2 at the Wenner, after the 12 seed Raiders (12-9) upset  Masconomet Regional, 58-53, in overtime, on Monday. The Marauders defeated the Raiders, 78-63, back on Jan. 23. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

“They’re a scrappy team. They are like us in the sense that they’ll hustle for loose balls, they’ll play tough defense,” said Yardemian.

Charlestown came to the Wenner with a tall – three starters over 6’5″ with senior center Franklin Udeh north of six-and-a-half – and physical team that came out of the hard-as-nails Boston City League at 10-9. But where the Townies had the advantage of the tale of the tape, the Marauders proved the complete team on the night.

“We played a lot of teams this year, and I don’t know if we’ve played a tougher team … rebounding,” said Pritchard.

Yardemian quickly placed his imprint on the match, scoring seven of Belmont’s first 11 points; on a drive and jumper, a pretty backdoor play with sophomore guard Mac Annus and a three-pointer from college-distance. Benefiting from Belmont’s “push” offense was senior forward Tomas Donoyan who sliced through for six in the first quarter while junior forward Ben Sseruwagi (8 points) knocked down a pair of buckets. Belmont ended the first quarter with a floater by Yardemian and a critical block by senior center Jake Pollack (2 points) to hold a three-point lead, 19-16, after one.

In front 30-25 midway through the second, Yardemian took the game into his hands, starting with a mid-range step-back jumper as he threw in 11 in the quarter while leading the offense. Assisted by the Townies lack of success from the outside – they would only hit three threes – and some poor ball handling decisions, Belmont was able to break several times for relatively easy hoops. With Yardemian cutting thorough the Townies for an uncontested layup at the buzzer, the Marauders took a 40-31 point lead into the half, half of the points coming from the Middlesex League all-star.

At the start of the third, Yardemian began playing helper, finding Donoyan (who scored 8 of his 16 in half) and Pollack (with a behind the head pass) as the lead expanded towards 20.

“He’s done a much better job of seeking out his teammates, and you have to do that to be a floor leader, you can’t just to look to score every time,” said Pritchard.

A corner three from Annus (9 points, all from beyond the arc) and a power move to the hoop by Yardemian inflated the advantage to 18 (56-38) at the end of three quarters. Charlestown had no answer to the surge and the fourth quarter was Yardemian who hit Belmont’s only two free throws in the game on to his way to 10 points in the final eight minutes.

While deferring speaking about Yardemian – “I’ve heard enough of him!” he said with a laugh – Pritchard heaped praise on co-captain Pollack who was thrown into the lion’s den by being matched up with the Townies big men.

“One of the guys who’s key to us is Jake,” said Pritchard, noting that most games Pollack is outweighed and shorter than who he’s playing. “And he doesn’t leave anything left in the tank when he’s done. That, right there, makes him our MVP.”

As for Friday’s game vs. Melrose, Pritchard was philosophic.

“Hey, we’re still playing. I’m happy with that,” he said.

Shooting Four A Title: Belmont Boys Hoops Host Charlestown Tuesday, Girls At Home Saturday

Photo: Belmont 

After successful regular seasons in the books, Belmont High basketball teams will now look forward to the postseason as the MIAA released the sectional playoff tournament brackets on Friday.

Both Belmont hoop teams received the fourth seed in their sectionals which awards the boys two and the girls a single home game. 

The Belmont Boys’ (15-5) will start the postseason against number 13 seed Charlestown High (10-9) in the first round of the Division 2 North sectional at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Wenner Field House. The Townies bring a tall front line featuring three starters 6’4″ or taller, including 6’6″ center Franklin Udeh.

If they win Tuesday, Belmont is set to play the winner of Masconomet Regional (15-5) and Melrose (11-9) likely on Friday in the quarterfinals.

In the Division 1 North tourney, the Belmont Girls (17-3) will host the winner of the Revere (16-4), Andover (10-10) matchup in a rare Saturday night game, March 3 at 7 p.m. If Revere comes to town, the Marauders will face Boston Globe and Herald All-Scholastic player Valentina Pepic. The 6’2″ senior center, who has committed to play at Division 1 Niagara next year, led her league in points and rebounds for the second year, scoring her 1,000 career point earlier in the year. 

If Belmont wins, they will meet the winner of the Woburn vs Everett/Beverly contest in the sectional semifinals and the possibility of an epic grudge match against the one-seed Tanners, who with the Marauders share the Middlesex Liberty title. 

Hoops: Boys’ Behind MVP Yardemian Takes Comcast Title; Girls’ Fade In Championship Match

Photo: Belmont’s Danny Yardemian leads the Marauders to the Comcast Tourament title.

Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball did themselves proud at last weekend’s Comcast Tournament taking on some of the best hoop teams in the state at Woburn High School. 

The boys’ defeated Brighton, 72-69, and handled 17th-ranked St. Mary’s of Lynn, 72-61, to win its division as junior Danny Yardemian was named Division MVP. The Belmont Girls’ defeated 2015 state champions Bishop Feehan, 60-57, in overtime and was leading the number 1-ranked Westford Academy by nine points at the half before fading down the stretch and losing in the finals, 54-47. 

Belmont Boys’ came into the tournament on a roll, defeating highly-talented rivals Winchester, Woburn and Arlington to end the regular season on a six-game winning run. In the tourney opener, Belmont faced Brighton, the team which unceremonially knocked off a strong Marauders team in the first round of the 2016 Division 2 North sectionals. It was close early with Belmont up 12-10 after the first quarter with junior guard Ben Sseruwagi leading the way with 6 points. The Marauders upped the lead to five at the half (35-30) as senior forward Will Ellet (16 points) knock down three threes in the quarter. Belmont would keep a margin of between 6 to 10 points through most of the second half when Yardemian scored 13 of his 17 points. A late comeback by Brighton cut the lead to two with 12 seconds to go when sophomore Mac Annus hit one of two and the Panthers missed a pair of treys.

Against St. Mary’s, Belmont followed the same script as before, close in the first while stretching the lead in the second. With Yardemian lead the offense both pointwise and dishing the ball, the Marauders went on a tear, scoring 29 points in the second, hitting four threes to go with a good number of drives to the basket as Annus and Yardemian had six while Ellet threw in a pair of threes scoring nine in the quarter. Up 43-27 at the half, Belmont would stay in the lead by double digits into the fourth when St. Mary’s Stephen Fama (23 points) got the Spartans within nine, 68-59, with a little more than two minutes to play. But Yaremian would seal the victory at the line, hitting 8 for 10 from the charity stripe to end the game with 31 points and the MVP trophy. Sseruwagi joined Yaremian on the all-tournament team and senior Tomas Donoyan was the recipient of the team/scholarship.

The Belmont Boys sits at 15-8 overall and 15-5 in regards to its placement in the tournament.

The Belmont Girls’ used a tenacious defense and clutch play by senior Carly Christofori to take down the top-10 Shamrocks from Bishop Feehan in extra time. Both teams held their own in the first quarter with the Marauders up 12-10 which could have been a larger lead if not for a few missed shots in close. Senior Jenny Call’s two threes and fellow co-captain Greta Propp work inside kept the game tight in the second and when Jane Mahon made a mid-range bucket with seconds left in the quarter, Belmont took a slim one-point lead, 28-27, into the break.

Bishop Feehan took its largest lead of the game at 5, 42-37, late in the third on threes from seniors Nicole Smith and Anna Shaughnessy only to see a trey from Christofori with five seconds left tied the game at 42 entering the final eight minutes. Down by four midway through the fourth quarter, a pair of threes from Call and Christofori (a game-high 21 points) swung the lead back to Belmont, 50-48. A steal and layup by Smith with 80 seconds left knotted the score at 52. The Shamrocks had the better chances to win the game in regulation – including a missed one and one – but Belmont hung on to send the game into extra time.

Tan’s three and yet another Mahon mid-range jumper gave Belmont a 57-54. A Tan free throw with 24 seconds left upped the lead by one, 58-54, only for junior Sarah John make a line-drive three to cut the lead to one with 8.3 seconds remaining. On the inb0unds, the Shamrocks fouled Giorgio who had gone 0-6 from the charity stripe. But the junior center nailed the two shots to give the game to the Marauders.

Sunday’s championship game was a tale of two halves as Belmont’s suffocating defense and opportunistic offense took the Gray Ghosts by surprise as Tan came out smoking, scoring 6 points and grabbing three offensive rebounds to lead the Marauders to a 15-2 lead after the first quarter. After Belmont built its biggest lead at 15, 17-2, Westford would finally score its first basket at 5:30 in the second quarter. The rest of the quarter saw each team rely on defense as Westford paid close attention on Christofori at times triple teaming the four-year starter. After Giorgio made two free throws with less than a minute in the half, Belmont stretched its lead to 23-11. But a last-second three-pointer from senior Brooke Pillsbury cut the advantage to 23-14 and was a harbinger of things to come.

Belmont’s third quarter was a polar opposite to its stellar play in the first half, with tentative and questionable shooting and being outrebounded better than two-to-one, the Marauders saw their lead melt away quickly. Westford’s senior guard Emily Bramanti’s trio of threes in the quarter (11 points in the third) led the way for the Gray Ghosts as they outscored the Marauders 18-4 to take a 32-27 point lead into the fourth. Belmont did marshal a comeback behind Giorgio’s eight points in the final quarter (the center led the Marauders with 15 points), cutting the lead to two, 42-40, with 2:19 left. But a three by junior guard Carolyn Graham (her only points of the game) put Belmont down by 7 with a minute to play. 

Christofori and Tan were selected to the all-tourney team and Propp was the recipient of the scholarship.

Belmont finishes the season at 17-3 and awaits the seeding for the MIAA Division 1 North sectionals on Friday, Feb. 23. 

Boys’ Hoops Playoff Bound Thanks To Hitting Threes; Girls’ Back To Winning Ways

Photo: Danny Yardemain driving to the hoop against Winchester.

When Belmont High Basketball Head Coach Adam Pritchard heard his team threw in 13 three-pointers in its 79-73 home victory Friday, Feb. 9  against 13-win Winchester High, the long-time leader of the Marauders responded: “That few?”

“I’m not kidding when I think we can score more from [three-point range],” said Pritchard.

Not that the long ball has been the only reason Belmont has been on an impressive four-game winning streak defeating two playoff-bound teams (including a no-contest 85-57 beatdown of Woburn on the Tanners court) and clinching a spot in the postseason with its win over Lexington on Tuesday, at the Wenner.

Included with the three-pointers has been combining a sneaky quick fast break, a better than most threat in the offensive end (i.e., they hit more than just threes) and a bend-but-not-break defense that can make a game more interesting than Pritchard would like as what occurred against the Sachems Friday. 

Belmont used its break in the first half to build an eight-point lead (22-14) led by the senior forward Tomas Donoyan. The Marauders defense was holding Winchester in check with the glaring exception of the Sachems’ Mario DiBenedetto who came in as Winchester’s third-leading scorer. While the guard is averaging 13 points a game, he matched that number midway through the second quarter rattling in 19 points by halftime, keeping his team close to Belmont, 41-34.

With Yardemian yet again garnering the attention of the other team – having senior guard Liam Fitzgerald on him like a cheap suit – Belmont relied on the dual deep threats of sophomore shooting guards Mac Annus and junior Ben Sseruwagi and veteran senior forward Will Ellet who took up the scoring load.  

Belmont built up its lead to double digits, 54-43, on three free throws by Sseruwagi with 3:22 left in the quarter, only to see DiBenedetto once again cut the lead to seven and reaching 27 points. At 54-47, and as he was heading to the hoop, DiBenedetto stepped on a shoe and went down. He would return from the locker room on crutches. With its leading scorer on the bench, Belmont quickly built an 11 point lead.

But the Sachems would not go away, cutting the lead to 62-61 before an Ellet three, a Donoyan block and Ellet’s second three in the fourth quarter gave Belmont nine-point lead with 3:05 left. But on three consecutive trips down the court, Fitzgerald drained a three, and suddenly the comfortable Belmont margin evaporated with the game tied at 70.

But a Yardemian driving layup and an Ellet three gave the Marauders lead of five, 75-70. While Winchester’s Joe McCarron’s basket and one cut the lead to two with 65 seconds remaining, Belmont would seal the deal when Ellet faked a three and completed a behind the back pass to Annus to cooly knocked the corner three to effectively end the contest. 

On Tuesday, Belmont did what they couldn’t a week earlier when they visited the Minuteman, hit the open shots. Revenging that loss, the Marauders took a workmanlike approach to the game, grabbing offensive rebounds while putting down 11 threes for the game to win going away, 86-75.

Despite having a defender in his face for most of the game, Yardemian led Belmont with 20 points followed by Ellet who drained four of the teams seven threes and Annus who both scored 19 points. Sseruwagi ended with a career-high 14 including 10 in the first half.

Close early, 15-13 at the end of the first quarter, Belmont put up 23 in the second to lead at the half, 38-29. Belmont would keep the margin in the 12 to 8 point range for the remainder of the game. 

The win gave Belmont its 10th victory of the season and securing a place in the sectional playoffs.

“Every year getting into the playoffs is our goal for the season,” said Assistant Head Coach Tim Stratford. “This is a team that works hard and the past few games they really distributed the ball really well. When your leading scorer [Yardemian] leads the team with assists, that when things are working well.” 

Belmont at 11-6 and ranked 21st in the Boston Herald’s Top 25 poll will be away against Reading on Tuesday as it prepares for Thursday’s big-time encounter with Middlesex League-leading Arlington (15-2) on Seniors Night. The SpyPonders, ranked 18th by the Boston Globe, have a Watertown Field Hockey-like 31 game league winning streak going back three years. 

Girls Back On Track

After the gut punch by Woburn last week, the 58-55 loss on a three-point shot with eight seconds left in the game, Belmont got back to its winning ways defeating Lexington at home, 55-31, on Tuesday and Winchester away, 67-18, on Friday.

“The girls responded well. It was nice they were able to come back with that kind of intensity,” said Head Coach Melissa Hart after the Lexington game. The Marauders are 14-2, and 13-1 in Middlesex League play and ranked 5th in the Boston Herald and 12th in the Boston Globe polls.

Unlike the game a week previous where the Minutemen were able to keep the contest close for most of the game at Lexington, Belmont expanded on an early lead and steadily increased the margin, outscoring the Minutemen 18-6 and 17-7 in the first two quarters to lead 35-13 at the half. Juniors center Jess Giorgio and guard Meghan Tan each tallied 10 points with senior Jenny Call hitting a pair of treys to extend her Belmont career three-point scoring record.

Against Winchester, Hart was able to use her bench for most of the game with something of a record 12 Marauders scoring against the undermanned Sachems. Hart pointed to junior Ella Gagnon who hit for a career-high six points and grabbing seven rebounds. Senior co-captain Greta Propp had 11 points to lead the team while Kylie Rhone (7 points), Alex Keefe (downtown for 3 points), Breah Healey (2 points) and Audrey Christo (4 points) contributed to the victory.

Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Girls’ host Reading on Seniors Night. After playing Arlington on Thursday, Belmont heads directly to the Comcast Tournament on Saturday where they meet South Shore powerhouse, Bishop Feehan.

“With the postseason coming next week, it’s good to realize what we need to do to be successful. The captains spoke to the players that they need to up the intensity. The loss rejuvenated their desire.” said Hart

Sports: Girls’, Boys’ Hoops Take Measure of Tanners, Home and Away

Photo: Jenny Call (21) and Carly Christofori (12) turn on the ball during Belmont’s game with Woburn.

They weren’t games you’d write home about but two wins are two wins as both Belmont basketball teams took the measure of Woburn in a pair of important early-season contests.

Bench Comes Up Big In Belmont Girls’ Come-From-Behind Win

Jane Mahon wasn’t sure she’d be playing in Tuesday’s game against Middlesex League rival Woburn. The junior forward and the Marauders’ “sixth man” was ill with the stomach flu on Monday and didn’t practice.

“I’m not sure if I’m playing. I was really sick,” Mahon told the Belmontonian before the game.

It’s a good thing for Belmont that Mahon, junior center Ella Gagnon and freshman Maiya Bergdorf all came off the bench as the trio of non-starters sparked a second-half surge resulting in the Marauders taking the measure of the unbeaten Tanners, 43-38, at Belmont’s Wenner Fieldhouse.

“It wasn’t pretty but it was a win that showed a lot of grit from the team,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart who saw her team go to 5-1. Woburn is now 4-1.

After an even first quarter, 12-11 in Belmont’s favor, Woburn took advantage of Belmont’s team foul deficit – at one point the Marauders had been whistled for 7 fouls against a single infraction for the Tanners – to go perfect (6 for 6, four from junior Julia Taylor) from the charity stripe while Woburn’s leader Andrea Schiavone (11 points) hit a 3 and a layup to propel the visitors to a 24-19 lead into the half. 

Trailing midway through the third quarter, Belmont’s comeback began with a Bergdorf three-pointer – the first of two 3s on the night – followed by a pair of mid-range jumpers from Mahon which cut an eight-point deficit to one, 28-27, with a minute and a half remaining.

“Woburn was very aggressive and always on us very tight. So when a teammate was driving to the basket I was always there to take a pass and that allowed me to have open shots,” said Mahon, who finished with 7 points, a block and a steal.

Mahon has been contributing on both ends of the court, said Hart, “with the intensity and work ethic she brings.”                                                                             

Early in the fourth quarter, Bergdorf hit her second 3 with 6 minutes remaining in the fourth to give the Marauders the lead for good at 31-30, followed by a drive to the basket to increase the lead to 35-32. Belmont was up by five points as junior 2-guard Meghan Tan (5 points who played the entire 32 minutes for the second consecutive game) hit a layup with one second on the shot clock to make the score 37-33 with 1:50 left in the game.

Bergdorf finished the night hitting two clutch free throws – Belmont was a less than stellar, 8-17, from the line – in the final minute to seal the victory and give her a game-high 12 points. 

“I just wanted to go out there, just give it my all and prove that I can play with [my teammates],” said Bergdorf.

Hart said Bergdorf has been able to feel comfortable on the team due to the support of the juniors and seniors such as captains Jenny Call (3 points), Greta Propp (6 points) and captain Carly Christofori (8 points).  

“She brings a skill set that is pretty special,” said Hart.

While not in the scorebook, Hart praised Gagnon’s overall physicality in relief of junior center Jess Giorgio (2 points), clogging the passing lanes and being a presence under the basket. 

“[Gagnon] was awesome tonight. She was a real difference maker tonight on defense,” said Hart, noting the team held a good attack offense to six points in the third and eight in the fourth quarters.

Six games into the season, Hart said she “likes where we are going, heartened by the fact that we haven’t played our best yet. Woburn will be tough when we go there (in February) but I expect us to be sharper by then.”

Boys’ edge Woburn 

Just how poorly was Belmont High’s Boys’ basketball team was playing defense in the first half against host Woburn on Tuesday, Jan. 2? Head Coach Adam Pritchard gave up yelling at his squad. 

“I ended the game with my voice intact,” said Pritchard, who said in the first quarter, the team “couldn’t guard a tree” giving up 24 points and trailing by 9. 

In the second, the Marauders “were slightly better shooting” scoring 21 points while holding the suddenly cooled down Tanners to 15 to creep back into the game by the half, trailing 39-36. All-star shooting guard Danny Yardemian (a team-high 22 points) led the Marauders with 7 in each of the opening two stanzas. 

After intermission, Belmont seemingly abandoned anything within the three-point arc and like Steph Curry, shot lights out from distance, knocking down six treys and nothing else, propelling them into the lead after three, 54-48, with sophomore point guard Mac Annus (15 points) and senior forward Will Ellet (16 points) each burying a pair. 

Woburn attempted to steal the lead back but senior forward Jake Pollock (6 points) stepped up defensively by taking a pair of charges that gave Belmont possession during critical times in the quarter to give Belmont the win, 69-67, with the Marauders ending the game with 11 3s. Belmont and Woburn are 4-2, second in the Middlesex Liberty Division trailing only Arlington.

“We beat a very good team and these are the type of games that we just battle back to win,” said Pritchard. 

Sports: Final Quarter Fall Off Ends Playoffs For Belmont Boys Hoops

Photo: Point guards Classical’s Jaylen Johnson and Belmont’s Danny Yardemian.

For the first three-quarters of its sectional quarterfinals match with favorite Lynn Classical, Belmont High School’s Boys’ Basketball were not just holding their own against the Rams, they were taking the measure of their hosts.

During the Saturday afternoon matinee, on March 4, the 6th-seeded Marauders driving, dishing and overall hustle appeared to surprise the Classical players and coaches as Belmont kept a steady five-point advantage throughout the game.

But all the 24 minutes of great work against the Northeastern Conference champs ended up for naught as the Rams used their quickness and athleticism to outscore the visitors 19-7 in the final eight minutes to leave their home court winners, 57-50, and end Belmont’s post-season.

The Marauders finish the season 17-7.

“Both teams have their strengths, and they were able to create some turnovers in the fourth quarter and converted them into baskets. For me that was really it,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s head coach after the game.

At tip-off, it was Belmont pushing the play with junior forward Tomas Donoyan scoring inside and outside along with a big block all in the first two minutes. It was then up to sophomore point guard Danny Yardemian to show off his smooth skills by twice brutalize Rams’ guard Erick Solis by driving the length of the court for a pair of baskets, part of his 6 point quarter and 10 point half.

On the other side, Classical had its sophomore point, Jaylen Johnson who matched Yardemian with six in the quarter.

A jumper from Belmont’s league all-star senior captain Paul Ramsey at the end of the eight minutes left the game knotted up at 14.

Pritchard added a little height to the game by injecting junior forward Jake Pollard who contributed by driving by the Rams’ big man Alek Bogavac followed by a 3 from senior Daron Hamparian gave Belmont the lead they would hold for most of the game.

The Marauders pressure gave Classical fits as they were hurrying shots offensively. The Rams one saving grace was a near magnetic attraction they had with the ball on the offensive boards, allowing for a number of second chance hoops.

Belmont was scrapping together baskets on their end with good ball rotation along with another Yardemian coast to coast bucket. A 3 from senior guard Bryan Goodwin gave the Marauders its biggest lead at eight, 34-26, in the final minute of the half. A late Classical hoop ended the scoring after 16 minutes at 34-28.

The third quarter was a slog, as both teams were trying to keep up the pace of the first half. Only the point guards were putting the ball through the net with Yardemian scoring seven to Johnson’s six points. After a three-minute stretch that the score remained at 41-34, Lynn Classical hit a pair in between Belmont’s final points by Yardemian to give Belmont a five-point lead, 43-38, entering the final stanza.

The fourth quarter soon became a clinic by Classical who swarmed the Belmont player with the ball and either caused a turnover or simply stole the rock. When Belmont ventured inside, the Rams’ junior center Edwin Solis – coming back from an injury – was grabbing rebounds and being fouled (he would go 4 for 4 from the line).

Just after midway through the quarter, Johnson, who ended with 17 points, made a layup to give the Rams and with it, the lead changes hands for the first time since the opening minute of the second quarter. Unfortunately for the Marauders, it was the final lead change of the game.

“We lost composure. They’re quick kids so when you try to dribble against them, and you throw floating passes, that’s what happens,” Pritchard said.

The next three Belmont possessions ended with the ball being stolen by the Rams. Yardemian’s 3 (he would end with a game-high 22 points) cut Lynn Classical’s advantage to 51-48 with two minutes to go, but the Rams’ would hit just enough shots from the charity stripe to head for the semifinals. 

Pritchard praised his team that nearly always came to the court undersized but would outwork its opponents for the entire season.

“We’re proud of our players. They certainly didn’t disappoint their coaches and parents. We were probably not a team picked to be fighting in the state tournament. It was a lot of credit to our senior class to get here,” said Pritchard.

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Sports: Belmont Boys’ Basketball Wins Sectional Opener Over Chelsea

Photo: Belmont point guard Danny Yardemian.

Belmont High Boys’ Basketball’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard had one piece of advice to his team in their playoff opener against Chelsea on Wednesday, March 1.

“Everything is fast tonight,” Pritchard told the team early in the first quarter.

A simple enough request, but it would be the core of Belmont’s impressive 70-51 victory over the Red Devils of the first round of the Division 2 North sectional tourney.

The win advances the sixth-ranked Marauders (16-5) to a quarterfinals meeting with the third-seed Lynn Classical (18-3) on Saturday, March 4 at 2 p.m. in Lynn.

Wednesday’s game saw Belmont supply defensive pressure creating too many problems for the entertaining but sloppy Red Devils is it brought the ball upcourt. The Marauders put the accelerator on the offensive end allowing for fast break opportunities and open shots.

Leading Belmont was sophomore point guard Danny Yardemian who ran the offense while punishing Chelsea’s loose defense to sneak through for one of several clean breaks to the basket. He would finish with a team-high 19 points.

Just seconds after winning the tip off, Yardemian nailed a 3 and Belmont would never lose the lead. They upped the advantage to 10-2 with a putback from junior forward Tomas Donoyan (8 points) which forced a timeout by Chelsea’s coach Judah Jackson just two-and-a-half minutes in. 

While Chelsea did pull back within three twice, the final time at 16-13 behind the Red Devils’ dynamic guard/forward Franklin Cruz (with a game high 20 points), Belmont senior guard Bryan Goodwin buried a three to double the lead to six at 19-13 with a minute remaining in the first. 

Taking an eight-point lead into the second, 23-15, Belmont showed its range on offense with senior Daron Hamparian sinking a pair of 3s – two of five 3s he drilled as he ended with 17 points – the second with a minute to go in the second to give Belmont a 16 point edge, 37-21.

But Chelsea scored three hoops in the final minute, using its superior height inside and the great first step of Cruz to whittle the lead at the half to 37-27. 

And the Red Devils would stay close in the third, but Belmont was out-hustling their opponents. When the Marauders needed to stop a mini-run by the Red Devils, senior captain and center Paul Ramsey – who was named a Middlesex League all-star this week – came up big, freeing himself under the basket for three buckets and a free throw for 7 of his 17 points. 

The Marauders’ finished the quarter with a play that typified the game as reserve forward senior Noah Riley (2 points) outrebounded two Chelsea players on the offensive boards then bulleted a pass to senior Cal Christofori (4 points) for the layup and a 56-45 point lead.

The fourth quarter saw both teams revert to more standard half court games without the manic-style defense from the previous 24 minutes. Belmont would slowly inch ahead until the margin hit 20 points, 67-47, late in the game. 

Hamparian said the win “shows just how much potential this team has and well we can do when we play as a team.” He said despite coming in with a height deficit, “we show a lot of heart to do this well especially winning rebounds.”

What can fans expect from the Marauders at the Saturday matinee against Lynn Classical?

“Running, running and more running,” he said.

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Sports: Belmont Boys’ Basketball Quietly Enters Playoffs After Cathedral Roadrace

Photo: Belmont’s Daniel Yardemian (center) being fouled by Cathedral’s Manny Green.

Can a 16-6 team quietly enter the playoffs?

Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball is doing just that, going about its business mostly under the radar as it enters the Division 2 North sectional tourney play on Wednesday, March 1 against Chelsea High School.

And that might be a good thing for the Marauders as opponents may overlook a team that played undefeated Division 1 powerhouse Arlington High close away to the SpyPonders, defeated City school Boston English, and took apart archrival and Division 3 North top-seed Watertown in the season while finishing second to the aforementioned SpyPonders in the Middlesex Liberty division.

“I really like this team,” said Belmont’s long-serving head coach Adam Pritchard a week ago. “We have an undersized center (senior captain Paul Ramsey) who I think is at least league co-MVP and just a lot of players who work well together. It’s a real scrappy team.”


That gritty style of play – regulars Cal Christofori and Ben Jones starred on the gridiron for the Marauders this season – was highlighted on Thursday when Belmont traveled to the bandbox gymnasium of Cathedral High in Boston’s South End to end the post-league season against the 14-4 Panthers who are the second seed in the Division 3 South sectionals and are expected to win not just the South but the Eastern Mass title.

Why put such an arduous task before his team as the playoffs loom, having ended the season on an impressive 6-1 run with wins over dreaded Watertown and a big tough team from Billerica on Seniors Night. 

“How are you going to get better if you don’t play the best,” said Pritchard before the game as the court rocked with the stands filled with happy parents and classmates on the Panthers’ senior night.


“It’s loud like a playoff game. I want [the Marauders] to experience this atmosphere against a talented team,” said Pritchard.

It was a game that did not disappoint in competitiveness and for just plain ol’ hoops FUN. The first half was played at breakneck speed as both teams resembled Usain Bolt as they sprinted up and down the floor with the ball being heaved the length and breadth of the court and threes raining from downtown. All that was missing was Dick Vitale yelling “Oh baby! It’s prime time in Boston!”  

That wide open play favored Belmont as sophomore point guard Daniel Yardemian used his quickness to open space to make the assist or drilling the J tallying scoring 14 points in the first, joining Ramsey’s 13 to allow Belmont to sprint out to a 29-18 first quarter lead. 

The Belmont trapping defense where two and even three Marauders surrounded the Panthers’ guards bothered the hosts into committing a slew of turnovers and hurried shots which gave the Marauders’ the edge. Yardemian hit two of three foul shots for a foul on a 3-attempt followed by senior Daron Hamparian; the Marauders were cruising by 15, 46-31 with 4:20 remaining in the second.


“He’s really important for us. It’s something special when you have someone who was the freshman [team] point guard playing that position as a sophomore and doing it at this level,” said Pritchard of Yardemian.

But Cathedral wasn’t laying down for the visitors, going on an 11-0 run culminating in a 3 from NBA distance by the Panthers all-star senior guard Calvin Cheek, cutting the lead to 4 at 46-42 with 1:11 left in the half. In the final minute, Christofori scored all five of his second quarter points including a buzzer beating 3 to allow Belmont to hit the half with a seven-point lead, 51-44.

The third quarter saw it rain 3s for both sides as the Panthers’ kept running. Belmont was equal with the spurt as a Ramsey basket, and foul shot pushed up the lead to eight, 59-51, four minutes in the quarter. Cathedral then upped their game and behind Cheek took a 67-66 lead only for Hamparian to throw up his third of four 3s for the night to give Belmont its last advantage at 69-67 with less than a minute to go. 


Cathedral High’s Calvin Cheek scored 31 points vs. Belmont.

But from that point it became the Cheek’s Show as the senior displayed a shooters eye, a command of the floor and a leader’s approach in coaching on and off the court, positioning teammates and yelling encouragement. He dished, drove and drained the key shots, in the first minute of the final stanza draining two from the charity strip and a 3 after stripping the ball to start the transition. 

Before you knew it, the Panthers went on a 14-3 run as the hosts slowed the play and allowed its bump and grab zone defense to stifle Belmont to lead 83-72 with two to go.

Give Belmont credit for marshaling a spirited comeback. As Cathedral missed free throws to extend its lead, Ramsey and Yardemian hit driving hoops while Hamparian swished his final 3. 

With Cheeks on the line and the Panthers up by 3, the game’s star faulted on both shots giving Belmont a final attempt to tie it up with a 3. But Yardemian’s contested fling was short with less than 10 seconds, and the Marauders fate was sealed, taking the fall, 86-81.

For Pritchard, the trip to the parking-challenged South End (hint: next year bring the Panthers to Belmont) was well-worth the effort and disappointment.

“For us, it was a really good preparation for tournament-wise and being in this atmosphere where you have to play through adversity. I thought our effort was there, so I’m not unhappy.

“We have things to work on, and we’ll have time to do those,” said Pritchard.

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