Despite Kleckner Loss, Belmont Boys’ Basketball Takes Host Lexington, 65-58

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball team, there was senior center Adam Kleckner sitting in street clothes at the end of the bench during the Marauders’ game with host Lexington High on Tuesday night, Jan. 14.

Last year’s co-Player of the Year in the Middlesex League who has been dominating the boards and scoring this season, Kleckner arrived to the game on crutches, the result of “a serious ankle sprain” that he suffered at practice the day before, said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

The loss of the dominate center in the league for “the next few weeks” comes as the Marauders had traveled through a hideous patch of games, going 1-4 including last-minute losses to Woburn on Friday and Saturday to a winless Somerville High squad in the feature match held at the TD Bank Garden in Boston.

“It’s adversity that you have to accept,” said Pritchard, noting that during this season the team has lost to injury three of their four captains; Kleckner, starting shooting guard junior Matt Kerans and senior guard Tom Martin.

It appears fourth captain, senior point guard Ben Lazenby, should be outfitted with a rabbit’s foot.

Despite Kleckner’s loss, the Marauders’ was able to press the 1-7 Minutemen – which saw a potentially playoff run go to the wayside when brothers Tom and Harry O’Neil were recruited to play at St. John’s Prep – and score a series of three point buckets to walk away with a much needed, 65-58, victory.

“We just wanted to put down our heads and play fast and tough. Sometimes if you just give maximum effort and just do what you’re capable of, things work out. The team was great tonight,” said Pritchard.

While at times looking like a pick-up game at the local Y with a lot of running around but no scoring, Belmont relied on the inside play of now-starting junior center Justin Wagner and stellar work by senior guard Jaemar Paul and Luke Peterson which included yet another monster rejection from the junior forward.

Belmont kept seeing its lead yo-yo-ing between 10 and 4 points throughout the game, up by four at the half (29-25), then by 11 midway through the third, then back down to four points again (49-45) with six minutes to play in the game.

But that was as close as the Minutemen would come as Martin hit a three, Belmont stole the ball and senior forward Seth Altman hit one of two to increase the lead (53-45).

Lexington did stick around to within five points (57-52) but Lazenby was fouled on his successful layup for three more, a return to the line for two more and Kerans’ long-distance three pointer was the coup de grâce (65-55) with just under two minutes to play. 

Belmont will need this same drive and effort on Friday, Jan. 16, as they play a surging Winchester team (6-4, 4-4 in the league) with 6’4″ center Michael Grassey who is scoring 24 points a game.


Belmont Girls’ Basketball Push Unbeaten Woburn to Limit, 59-56

Photo: Belmont High School junior (#15) Irini Nikolaidis heading for the basket defended by Woburn High School senior Taylor Kane at a game in Woburn on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

There are no good losses.

But for Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart, the team’s 59-56 loss to undefeated Woburn High School on Friday, Jan. 9, did have a lot of positives her squad can build on.

“We’ll learn from [the game],” Hart said. “This is hardly a loss we’ll look back and shake our heads.”

After falling behind by 10 points at the start of the game and being down by as much as 16 points midway through the third quarter, Belmont (4-2 overall and in the Middlesex League) would outscore the high scoring Tanners 38-21 with a combination of a up-tempo offense and its trademark high-power defense that visibly tired the hosts.

Only the play by Tanner all-star senior Sam D’Angelo who put in 8 of her 18 points in the final eight minutes allowed Woburn (8-0, 6-0 in the league) to escape with the win in its most challenging game of the season.

Not that Belmont started the game looking like a team to challenge the table toppers. The Marauders was tentative facing an aggressive opponent, finally scoring with a strong move by senior center Linda Herlihy at the 3:37 in the first quarter to make the score 10-3.

“This reminded me of the Watertown game (an opening loss of the season); [the team] was so unselfish because they didn’t want to make a mistake,” said Hart.

But the damage was done as Belmont’s vaunted defense was being beaten by long outlet passes before either hitting open players driving to the basket or waiting to take outside shots.

“Our press was not the best but you have to give a lot of credit to Woburn. That’s a very good team,” said Hart.

Down 19-6 after the first quarter and 29-17 at the half, Belmont’s sloppy work on the offense side of the ball allowed the Tanners to run off to the 38-21 lead.

But for the final 11 minutes of the game, Belmont began its comeback, starting with two steals that led to a pair of foul shots from freshman point guard Carly Christofori (4 points) and a three-pointer from fellow frosh Jenny Call (10 points including a pair of threes) to brought the score to 45-34 at the start of the fourth quarter.

As in past games, the Marauders followed the lead of senior point guard Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (7 points and three assists), Herlihy (8 of her 18 tough inside-the-paint points in the fourth to go along with 5 rebounds) and junior shooting guard Irini Nikolaidis (12 points) to cut into the Tanner lead.

On defense, senior Samari Winklaar (5 points) began pushing around the exhausted Woburn players into mistakes. The 11-point margin quickly fell to six, 49-43, with 5 minutes remaining on Herlihy’s turnaround, bank shot.

“Sometimes you have to forget the score and play,” said Herlihy. “We just ran the floor and tired them out.”

A pair from Call including a long three kept Belmont close at 55-48 midway through the quarter before a Nikolaidis layup from a court long pass from Christofori, a pair of free throws from Herlihy and Nikolaidis and a pretty step-back three from Eschenbach-Smith reduced the lead to five before Christofori hit two from the charity stripe to whittle the Tanner’s lead down to a single possession.

But Belmont’s charge was a little too late in the game as time ran out.

“We need to stay close for the entire game with good teams. We seemed to be battling from 10 to 12 points behind for most of the game. But they never gave up. They know they are capable of coming back,” said Hart.

Despite Kerans’ Return, Boys’ Basketball Collapse in Woburn, 54-53

In a season-deflating collapse, Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball team failed to score in the final two-and-a-half minutes in its matchup with host Woburn High, allowing the Tanners to run off nine points, including a steal and basket in the final 23 seconds to founder to a 54-53 loss on Friday, Jan. 9.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t have a sound bite to give you,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s head coach after the game.

The loss send Belmont to a 5-3 record and 4-2 in the Middlesex League, two games behind undefeated Arlington (7-0, 6-0 in the league) and a game behind Woburn (5-4) which is 5-1 in the league .

The defeat spoiled the return of starting junior shooting guard Matt Kerans thought to be lost to the team until late January after he was injured in a win over Cathedral High School over the winter recess. Since losing Kerans in December – who with senior center Adam Kleckner are the Marauders’ top scorers – Belmont is 1-3.

It was with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter when Kerans entered the game, pairing him with his long-time backcourt partner, Ben Lazenby (7 points). While rusty in his passing, Kerans (9 points) hit his first shot, a long-distance three point basket – the first of three threes in the game – to give the Marauders a 18-14 lead a minute into the second quarter.

While the Marauders’ took the game to the Tanners, leading 15-10 after the first quarter and 26-20 at the half, the only consistent scoring threat for Belmont was Kleckner, who finished with 17 points and double digits in rebounds. In the four quarters, only junior forward Justin Wagner (8 points) and senior co-captain Tim Martin (5 points including a three) scored more than one basket in any one quarter while no other Belmont player scored in double figures.

Led by Kleckner’s scoring and Wagner’s defense – including two blocks and grabbing several rebounds – Belmont took its biggest lead with Martin’s three upping the Marauders’ lead to 10 at 37-27 with 2:48 left in the quarter.

But a three point shot by Deion Williams (who finished with 16 points) followed by a three from Jimmy McRae quickly cut the lead to five at the end of three (40-35). 

Despite running at Woburn, Belmont saw its lead shrivel to one at 43-42 with six minutes to play. But a Kleckner driving layup, a Kerans steal, a three point shot from Lazenby and then by Kerans (from more than 18 feet from the basket) and  finally a Wagner easy put-in after Kleckner dove and stripped the ball away from a Tanner player saw the Marauders lead grow to eight with 150 seconds left.

But that was enough time for Woburn to use the time to apply double teams up and down the court and win the ball as the game got a bit chippy with Wagner ripping out the ball from McRae sending Woburn senior Matt Catizone (8 points) to the court with a thump.

A two point jumper, another three from Williams, a Belmont turnover and a bucket by Woburn reduced the lead to a single point with 40 second remaining. Pressure on Belmont resulted in the turnover to the Tanners and guard Daniel Muscot (who scored 10 of his 12 points in the final stanza) buried the layup with 23 seconds to play.

A quick miss by Belmont forced the team to foul Woburn three times in the backcourt – Woburn had only collected four fouls that point in the game – wasting valuable seconds on the clock. Catizone missed the one-and-one free throw with less than six seconds to play but Lazenby’s shot from the top of the key at the buzzer hit high off the backboard.

“We need to play smarter and better in this league to win,” said Pritchard.

Belmont Boys’ Basketball Unable to Overtake SpyPonders in Second Loss

Despite 22 minutes characterized by numerous errant passes, missed shots and general sloppy defense, Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball team clawed its way to back into its game with undefeated Arlington in its Middlesex League matchup on Tuesday, Jan 6, at Belmont’s Wenner Field House.

Adam Kleckner‘s driving shot with little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter squared up the contest at 45 with the hope the Marauders could somehow sneak a victory from the visiting SpyPonders.

But a fast-break basket and a pair of foul shots upped Arlington’s lead to four (49-45) at the end of the third quarter. And those late points proved to be a springboard for the SpyPonders as they ran off 21 points to win running away by 15, 70-55.

For Belmont (5-2), the loss to neighboring Arlington (7-0) was a step back for a team that is struggling since two important pieces to a team that ran off four victories – starting shooting guard Matt Kerans and sixth man Cole Barets – are shelved for some undetermined period.

“Arlington’s a great team and you can’t beat that sort of team when you’re not playing good basketball,” Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard told the Belmontonian.

“We didn’t play physical, didn’t box out and made too many mistakes,” said Pritchard.

Belmont started out smartly as the Marauders took a 7-2 lead after three and a half minutes via a great assist from starting senior point guard Ben Lazenby (11 points) to Kleckner (15 points), along with a three point basket and a jumper from an offensive rebound by senior Seth Altman. 

Despite Kleckner picked up his second foul at four-and-a-half minutes, a pair of free throws from Altman (who scored a career-high 15 points) and two hoops from Kleckner’s replacement, junior forward Luke Peterson (6 points), had Belmont holding a 13-10 lead with two minutes to play in the first.

But Belmont next two times with the ball were stolen by Arlington who was led by senior guard Josh Lee (a game high 23  points) ran off 7 points in the final minute to lead 19-15 at the end of the quarter.

While a Lazenby drive to the basket brought Belmont within two (23-21), Lee (a pair of threes and a driving jumper) and his teammate, the outstanding soccer phenom Miles Robinson (6 of his 15 points) upped the SpyPonder’s lead to 8 (37-29) at the half.

Belmont got back into the game via Altman who hit a pair of threes and a nice floater to tie the game at 43 before it tied the game again at 45.

But the sloppiness of their play and the quickness of the SpyPonders doomed the Marauders to its second loss in the past three games.

Belmont Boys’ Basketball Ups Physical Play to Stall Rockets, 58-41

With the grind of league play upon them, the Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball team took to the court on Friday, Jan. 2 against hosts Reading Memorial High School with the objective to get a bit more physical out there.

After suffering its first defeat of the season to a good Billerica team on Monday, Dec. 29, the squad hoped to move bodies around the court to allow the Marauders’ scoring duo of senior center Adam Kletchner and senior point guard Ben Lazenby a bit more room to hit their shots and, consequently, making it harder for the Rockets – just off winning a holiday tournament – offensively.

It worked; as Belmont (4-1) handled the Rockets (2-4), 58-41, in which Lazenby shouldered the bulk of the scoring lost with junior scoring guard Matt Kerans (bandaged hand) and 6th man Cole Bartels sitting on the bench.

“I liked what I saw. They showed a more physical side” of their play, said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

The key to the win was the duel role Lazenby took, not only leading the offense but also taking shots usually handled by his partner Kerans. Lazenby finished the game with 21 points which included hitting four three point shots but only going 3 for 10 from the charity stripe.

Pritchard noted that Lazenby was not only doing double duty on the offensive end, “he’s also guarding their best backcourt player. His work rate is very impressive.”

Following Lazenby on the scoring sheet was Kleckner (20 points) who was Mr. Steady, scoring four, six, six and four in each quarter while making it difficult for the Rockets down low.

“Kleckner is Kleckner; he’s getting the job done, especially now when he need him to step up,” said Pritchard.

While no other Belmont player hit more than a single basket, the team’s defense was a marked improvement from Monday’s loss, lead by seniors Jaemar Paul (3 points from the line) and Seth Altman (an important 3 pointer early in the game to put the Marauders’ in the lead) and junior big man Justin Wagner (2 points), each contributing to the defense on the night.

Depleted Belmont Boys’ Basketball Falls to Billerica, 66-60, for First Loss

Despite 35 points and double digits rebounds from senior center Adam Kleckner and a late run led by fellow senior Ben Lazenby, the Belmont High School Boys Basketball could not recover from a “lousy” first quarter and suffered its first defeat of the season to undefeated Billerica High, 66-60, at Wenner Field House on Monday afternoon, Dec. 29.

While a combination of weak team shooting and ragged defensive execution were glaring inefficiencies on the court, two prime reasons for the loss by the Marauders was sitting on the bench. All-star junior shooting guard Matt Kerans had his left hand heavily wrapped in a bandage (obtained in the team’s impressive, come-from-behind victory over hosts Cathedral in Boston on Saturday) and co-6th man junior Cole Bartels sidelined with a viral illness.

“[Kerans] is one of the best players around so clearly we are a different team without him,” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard. Kearns has been a consistent points producer with the ability to drive to the basket or hit from distance while Bartels has become the most reliable three-point scorer when he’s on the floor.

In addition, Belmont was up against Billerica, undefeated and projected to challenge for the Merrimack Valley League title.

While he bemoaned the lack of offense punch, Pritchard pointed to the continued breakdown of the team’s defensive schemes by a quick, athletic Indians’ team as Billerica was adept at scoring from a number of offensive plays whether it was off the dribble/drive, off the screen or one-on-one under the basket.

“[Defense] is a team thing,” said Pritchard. If an opponent “gets by one of us or we don’t box out, then we’re a poor team,” said Pritchard.

Those defensive liabilities came to the fore in the game’s first eight minutes as the Indians rocketed to a 10-3 lead midway through the quarter. Led by senior guard Brad Fisher and 6-foot, 6-inch junior center Josh Bradanese, who battled Kleckner both inside and beyond the arc, each Indian starter scored including three three-point baskets, to take a 19-10 lead with Kleckner scoring eight points (going along with rebounds and a power block on Bradanese) with only senior guard/forward Seth Altman (2 points) scoring in the quarter.

Belmont finally found its footing in the second and behind Lazenby (13 points) who hit a three and Kleckner’s defensive stance (with another block and a steal along with nine points in the quarter) cut the lead to four points (26-22) on a junior Joe Shaughnessy layup.

But Billerica took advantage of the porous Marauder defense to end the half on an 11-2 streak to go into the half up 37-24.

Lazenby took charge in the third quarter with seven points and setting up Kleckner and senior forward Justin Wagner (4 points) but the lead stayed in double figures.

Despite 14 points in the fourth (in which his dominate play caused Bradanese to foul out), Kleckner could not bring the team back from the earlier deficit.

“We want to play teams like Billerica because they are good so we can get better,” said Pritchard.

Get Your Tickets Now for the Marauders Trip to ‘The Garden’ on Jan. 10

It’s a trip of a basketball lifetime: Belmont High’s Boys’ Basketball will travel to the TD Bank Garden on Saturday, Jan. 10 to take on Somerville High as part of the 2015 Good Sports Invitational.

And you can join the Marauders as they play under more championship banners than any other arena in the country as fans will be treated to a professional-caliber game presentation, featuring music and instant replays on the Garden HDX scoreboard. Just imagine seeing 20-foot tall Adam Kleckner and Ben Lazenby hitting threes in high def.

The game will take place at 12:30 p.m. – the match is part of an eight game one-day tournament with some of the best high school teams from the Boston-area competing – which will allow enough time to get back home to see the New England Patriots’ playoff game that afternoon.

In addition, many fans will be taking the 10:27 a.m. MBTA commuter rail train from Belmont Center to the Garden. 

TICKETS are $14 ($15 at the door) and are being sold at Champions Sporting Goods, 53 Leonard St. and Rancatore’s Ice Cream, 36 Leonard St.

Boys’ Basketball Starts Fast, Races By Stoneham, 82-47

Simply put, this edition of Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball was too quick, too big, too skilled and too good for Stoneham High on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at the Wenner Field House, downing the visitors, 82-47.

Just how dominate was the Marauders? In the first four minutes of the game, the starting five outscored the Spartans, 15-0 (the squad was ahead 13-0 two minutes in) and Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard had five subs on the sidelines ready to give his starters an early Christmas-Eve Eve rest.

While Stoneham did cut the lead to 7 (15-8) with a minute left, a pair of threes from junior forward Cole Bartels upped the lead to 21-10 at the end of the half.

Then the starters came back in and senior point guard Ben Lazenby knocked down the next 7 points (a drive through the lane, a break away and a deep three) as the defense clamped down on Stoneham led by big man senior center Adam Kleckner who either harassed or rebounded everything that came his way.

A drive by Kleckner and a rare four point play (hitting the three while being fouled) from junior guard Matt Kerans saw led grow to 38-15. In came the subs and soon the lead expanded to 29 (48-19) thanks to a pair from Bartels just before the half and a game high of 32 (58-26) midway through the third.

“Yeah, we were good out there,” said Pritchard, noting that Stoneham is not a walkover as it defeated a strong Winchester team last week.

When asked what did the team gain in a blow out, Pritchard said “[o]ur goal is to get better with each game and what I saw tonight is that [the team] played unselfishly and every game you do that, you benefit.”

Pritchard was able to clear the bench for an extended period allowing reserve senior forward Pablo Reimers and sophomore Bryan Goodwin to hit towering threes and injured senior captain Tom Martin the chance to bang in his first basket of the year to the cheers of the crowd.

Belmont Boys’ Basketball Throws 6s, Again, in Home Opener Win Over Melrose

Photo: Belmont High School’s senior center Adam Kleckner grabs an offensive rebound vs. Melrose in the Marauder’s 66-50 win on Dec. 19, 2014. 

The number 66 is a spheric, triangular, hexagonal and a semi-meandric number. And being a multiple of a perfect number, 66 is itself a semiperfect number.

It is also been the number of points the Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball have averaged in their first two victories of the 2014-15 season. That calculation is a simple one as the Marauders have scored 66 points in those consecutive games.

On Friday afternoon, Dec. 19, at Belmont’s home opener against a scrappy Melrose High team, the Marauders led from start to finish, going ahead 11-1 before exploding for 27 points in the third quarter to win easily, 66-50, at the friendly, linoleum court confines of Wenner Field House.

“Don’t take anything away from Melrose. They are a good team with a great shooter [Cody Andrews, who topped all scorers with 23 points),” said Belmont Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

“We got our break going and grabbed the rebounds we needed to play our game plan,” said Pritchard.

And that game over the first two matches this season is speed and muscle as junior guard Matt Kerans came off a sub-par game (for him) at Watertown to match senior All-Star center Adam Kleckner in scoring both from the outside and close to the basket. While Kerans connected for a trio of treys for 9 of his 17 points, the big man (6-foot, 5-inches) Kleckner buried a pair from beyond the arc to round out a workman-like 13 points and a gaggle of rebounds.

After jumping out to a 10 point lead midway through the opening frame, Belmont kept the 10 point margin through the first half with starting third guard Jaemar Paul (12 points) sinking two treys and senior sub Peter Durkin going four-for-four from the line.

After Andrews’ five baskets in the second quarter cut the lead to eight at the half, 30-22, the Marauders displayed an ability to step on the gas and put the breaks on the opponent’s offense in the third quarter as Belmont outscored the Red Raiders, 27-11, as the team hit six threes, lead by the two-way play of senior guard Ben Lazenby (13 points) who scored 10 points (including two threes), dished out assists and created two steals.

By the end of the quarter, the benches started emptying for both teams.

“I wish I could say that it was all coaching that gives us the edge in second halfs  but I would be lying,” said Pritchard.

“[The players] know what needs to be done and they push themselves. There’s no big secret,” he said.

Sports: Boys’ Basketball Drains Watertown in Opener, 66-49

Photo: Belmont’s senior swingman Seth Altman driving for two of his 12 points in the season opener with Watertown.

At the end of the first quarter, the score in the opening game of the 2014-15 Belmont High Boys’ basketball season: Watertown, 16; Adam Kleckner, 8.

Without the talented senior center and co-captain playing is “A” game in the first eight minutes of the game, Belmont – which many sports observers believe the team could have a long run in the playoffs in March – was not prepared for a hustling and cocky Raiders’ team playing at home.

“Kleckner (a game-high 23 points and about the same number of rebounds) is a very talented player who can shot threes and play the outside but he’s very tough under the basket and the free throws proved it,” said Belmont’s long-time Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

In fact, Belmont clearly stumbled out to the gate, missing shots and not quite handling the Watertown defense.

“Watertown has a good basketball team with two kids who can really shoot the ball,” said Pritchard of junior guard Brendan Hoban (13 points) and senior Mike Hagopian (18 points).

“We were a little bit tentative offensively,” he said, as Belmont seemingly couldn’t find an open shot in the first 10 minutes of the game as Watertown twice took an 11 point lead (20-9 and 22-11) two minutes into the second quarter.

Seeking to spark up the offense, Pritchard substituted in senior Seth Altman (12 points) and junior Cole Bartels (6 points) which paid off when Altman swept in on a drive to score his first varsity hoop to cut the deficit to seven (22-15). And despite back-to-back sequences where Belmont players couldn’t put in four under-the-basket “bunnies,” the tide began turning in the Marauders’ favor with the Marauders

“I have to say, having [Seth] Altman coming into the game and knocking down threes and Cole [Bartels] to hit shots makes us a very potent team,” he said as the team trailed by three at the half, 26-23.

With a shaky first half in the rearview mirror, Belmont’s starters stepped up the pressure on Watertown while some old friends, the backcourt duo of co-captains senior Ben Lazenby (4 points) and junior Matt Kerans (15 points), returned to their “slash and burn” ways – quick moves to the basket or long-range shots – as they partnered for four and nine points respectively.

A 39-38 deficit flipped to a two-point lead after Kerans buried three free throws (he was fouled throwing up a trey) with 56 seconds remaining and then saw his bomb hit the front of the rim before falling in to give him six points in the final 50 seconds and Belmont the lead for good at 44-39.

“We did a much better job defensively in the second half. It just took a little bit to lock down our defense on them,” said Pritchard.

When Watertown crept close at 47-44, Altman banged in the first of two threes that Bartels matched in the final quarter as Belmont outscored the Raiders 43 to 23 to win the opener, 66-49.

“We got off to a slow start, but we had a great comeback,” said Altman who Pritchard views as the team’s “swing” man.

“It’s the other guys that make it easy. I’m just doing the simple job taking the shots,” he said.