Belmont Girls’ Hoop Coach Hart Fired

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart working the sideline at the TD Bank Garden.

Melissa Hart, who led her alma mater’s girls’ basketball team for the past 11 years, will not have her contract extended for the 2022-3 year.

In a brief conversation, Hart said she was informed on Monday, March 28, by Adam Pritchard, the acting athletic director, that she would not be returning. Hart said the action came as a surprise to her as there was no indication of problems with her coaching or the program. She sent private emails to players and parents on the matter.

Pritchard did not respond to a request for comment.

Born and raised in Belmont, Hart was the starting senior goalkeeper on the 1985 state girls’ soccer championship team. She was a three-sport star at Hamilton College where she still holds records in women’s basketball.

Hart came to Belmont after coaching soccer and basketball at MIT and before that at Emerson. After missing the state tournament for six years, Belmont Girls’ under Hart’s coaching would go on an impressive run reaching three North Sectional finals and two semifinals from 2015-19. In 2019, Hart’s team was undefeated in the Middlesex League and finishing the season at 19-1 while being ranked the number one team in Eastern Mass by the Boston Globe. Including making the playoffs in 2020, the Belmont hoopsters put together an 88-32 record over six seasons.

Hart is the second long-time coach to leave the high school athletics program as Paul Graham is no longer the girls’ soccer coach after more than three decades at the helm.

Hoops: Both Marauder Squads Stumble In Visit To Lexington

Photo: Tyler Arno throwing up a three against Winchester.

It was a frustrating start to the holiday weekend for the Belmont High boys and girls basketball teams as their visits to cross border rivals Lexington on Friday, Jan. 14 as both teams came home nursing one-sided losses to the Minutemen.

Belmont High Girls’ came to the contest to halt both a scoring drought and losing streak which the Marauders averaged just 26 points vs Watertown and Woburn.

Belmont’s attempt to run its offense through the paint was hampered by a strong Lexington perimeter defense that produced several steals and Marauder miscues. While Belmont preferred to work inside, Lexington showed no such disinclination shooting from downtown, hitting nine threes while the Marauders came up blank from beyond the arc.

And it didn’t help that Belmont’s biggest bugaboo was going to the free throw line where the Marauders went 11 for 27, leaving 16 valuable points on the floor.

The game didn’t start well as the Marauders fell behind 7-0 after about 70 seconds before Sophie McDevitt buried two from the charity stripe. After cutting the lead to three, 7-4, on a Mia Ferrari, long two point jumper, Lexington scored twice off steals to finish the quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 16-6 lead entering the second. The Minutemen stretched the advantage throwing in a trio of threes in two minutes to up the lead to 28-12 midway through the frame before Belmont scored the final five points with Cortney Howell nailing a fall away two at the buzzer to end the half trailing 28-17.

Belmont came out strong in the third cutting the Minutemen’ advantage to seven points with a Ferrari jumper. But the Minutemen responded with two threes and a bucket while Belmont missed three of four free throws to restore a double digit lead, 36-21, before extending it to 44-28 entering the final quarter And while the Marauders did go 5 for 8 from the free throw line in the final quarter, Lexington was never threatened as it won by 18, 55-37.

Belmont currently sits at 3-7 over all and 3-5 in the league.

It was showtime as the Lexington boys’ literally running away from Belmont High Boys’ Hoops early to take home a rather sloppy 75-49 win in the second game of the doubleheader. Lexington’s speed, physicality on offense and defense and their touch from outside proved too much for a Marauders team that simply couldn’t keep up with the hosts.

Not that the Minutemen didn’t give Belmont opportunities to take control of the game as Lexington players, especially in the first half, were more than happy to turn the ball over in attempts at the spectacular – they had more failed dipsy-dos then the returns department at the dipsy-do factory – when a jumper or pass would have sufficed.

While Lexington’s haphazard playing allowed Belmont a sniff at getting back into the game, the Marauders’ couldn’t get out of their own way; in one sequence down by ten, Belmont committed a pair of traveling violations and an offensive foul in three trips up the court while Lexington scored on each turnover..

Belmont did come out with a hot hand from distance with Donovan Holway hitting the first basket for a three and senor guard Tyler Arno going two for three from the arc to keep the deficit to seven early in the second quarter, 18-11. But Lexington’s League MVP candidate CJ Cox was not going to be stopped by Belmont, hitting from outside (3 for 4 from three point range in the first 10 minutes) before finishing off a fast break with a dunk to stretch the host’s advantage to 18 (29-11) just two minutes into the second quarter. At half time, Belmont was down by 17, 38-21.

For the remainder of the game, Belmont could only match basket for basket only to be victimized by Lexington’s quick hands defense and downtown shooting. After three quarters, Minutemen shot 10 for 19 from three compared to Belmont’s 4 for 11.

Belmont sits at .500 both in the Middlesex League 4-4 and overall 5-5 with a visit from Wakefield next.

Belmont Hoops: Stratford’s First Game In Charge A Success; Girls’ A Work In Progress

Photo:

Boys’ “New” Coach’s account opens With A Victory

When head coach Adam Pritchard was installed as the school’s acting Athletic Director, the Belmont High Boys’ Basketball team found themselves looking for just its third head coach in several decades.

But the school didn’t have to look far for Pritchard’s replacement as long-time tenured JV coach Tim Stratford has taken over running the program. And while a rookie leader in name only, Stafford was as excited as any first-time coach as Belmont got the season underway with a scrappy 64-59 opening victory against Middlesex League Liberty Division foe Winchester.

”Excellent start. They showed a great deal tonight,” said a smiling Stratford after the victory as the Marauders ended the calendar year with four victories in the first six games as it now begins a stretch against very difficult League opponents.

Relying on a combination of strong defense led by senior center Kevin Logan and launching lots of threes, Belmont demonstrated a balanced scoring attack led by senior Tyler Arno with 16 points, followed by sophomore Donovan Holway contributing 13 as senior Thomas Ryder, junior Collin Galloway and senior Nick Giangregorio scored 10 a piece.

It looked as if Belmont was going to run away from Winchester from the start stretching an early lead 19-6 at the end of the first 12 minutes. But Winchester would quietly rally with a 11-2 run and just before the half the once safe lead was down to two, 27-25, as Belmont’s three-point prowess fizzed out.

“We got out to a slow start in the second and it’s just some things that it’s early in the season so I’m not surprised they’re making some mistakes,” Stratford said.

Winchester would take a brief one point lead early in the third, Belmont would climb back on top with their favorite threes from Arno, Ryder and Giangregorio to lead 44-37 entering the fourth quarter. And while built the margin to 11 with 87 seconds remaining in the game. Winchester’s long distance shots found the range and the lead dwindled down to two possessions – 63-59 – with 25 seconds to play, but the Marauders hung on for the W.

“I liked all what I saw tonight because they played within themselves and within the game,” he said “But they sure scared the heck out of me at the end,” said Stratford.

At 4-2, the season has seen good wins against out-of-league opponent Dracut – which defeated Brockton and Chelmsford – and Liberty division foe Arlington. The team enters the new year to begin the bulk of its season against Middlesex league opponents starting at Melrose on Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Girls’ Hoops Finding Out What Will Work

When you enter a season with a young and mostly untested team, it will take some time before the coach knows just what combination of players will give them the best results. And it appears Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart will be performing that task for the foreseeable future.

In the season opener against Winchester at the Wenner Field House, Hart made several wholesale changes – at times entering four subs. But just who that group will be was not discovered that night as it was a rough start for the Marauders coming on the wrong side of a 50-32 loss.

“This team is certain a work in progress,” said Hart, who will miss three past varsity starters – including a league all-star – who transferred to private schools.

That lack of experience showed itself against Middlesex League Liberty opponent Winchester. Headed by the familiar figure of Belmont’s assistant volleyball coach, Sam Mosley, Winchester begins the season with its strongest team in memory with a trio of tall talented starters led by sophomore forward Emily Collins who score 12 points in the second quarter finishing with a game high 22 points.

Belmont is currently relying on senior guard Sara Dullaghan, the only starter with varsity experience going back to the playoff team of 2019-20. The starting guard’s quickness on defense and ability to get into the open court to slash to the basket saw her score 9 of Belmont’s 14 first half points and 7 of its 9 in the fourth to end the game with 15 points. Junior Sophie McDevitt finished with 6 points as Paula Dullaghan came through with 4 points.

Newcomers to watch this season includes freshmen forward Cortney Howell (three blocks and a raw force under the basket) 9th grade point guard Linda Sheng and sophomore Mia Ferrari.

After its annual trip to the Garden City Classic at Newton South High School over the holiday break, Belmont stands at at 2-4 overall, and 2-2 in the Middlesex League as it prepares for a month of Middlesex League opponents beginning with Melrose at the Wenner Field House on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Three Belmont Teams In Middlesex League Tournaments Starting Wednesday

Photo: Belmont teams are participating in a first-ever Middlesex League championship tournament.

The regular season might be over but three Belmont teams will be playing on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of a first ever Middlesex League championship tournament.

Boys’ Hockey and Girls’ Hockey and Basketball are playing in this impromptu playoff as the Middlesex League is following the examples of other athletic conferences by adding a tournament in place of the MIAA interscholastic championships which have been suspended for the school year.

Wednesday’s schedule includes:

  • Third seed Boy’s Hockey will play host to Wakefield at noon, Wednesday at John A. Ryan Area in Watertown. You can catch the game on cable – Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon – or on the web at belmontmedia.org/infotv
  • Girls’ Basketball, the fourth ranked team will play long time rivals Watertown at 2:30 p.m. While Belmont is the home team, the game will be played at Watertown High School. Watch the game on Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon or at belmontmedia.org/infotv
  • Finally, fourth seed Girls’ Hockey takes on Winchester at 7 p.m. at the Burlington Ice Palace. You can see the game on Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon and on the web at belmontmedia.org/infotv

Girls Hoops Taking the ’75’ Tuesday, Feb 25, To Cambridge For Tourney Opener Vs R&L

Photo: Belmont’s Nina Minicozzi rounding the pick from Emma McDevitt during a game at the TD Boston Garden vs Pembroke.

After coming off a decisive away victory over Arlington on Feb. 7, the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team was on a high note. At 11-6, the Marauders had secured a place in the MIAA Division 1 North tournament during a five game winning streak, had dominated fellow playoff squad in the SpyPonders – as well as revenging a home loss to Arlington – and was now playing for a good place in the sectionals.

But rather than heading up the seeding ladder, the Marauders took a tumble losing its final four to end the season at 11-10 to find themselves a 12th seed with an opening round game against its neighbors to the east, 5th seed Cambridge Rindge & Latin (16-4).

Belmont will be taking the MBTA’s number 75 bus – figuratively – to Cambridge on Tuesday, Feb. 25 for a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Falcons.

Defense will be the Marauders hallmark as it has been during the teams six year run in the playoffs. Starting with the guard play from junior Kiki Christofori and sophomore Sarah Dullagan, Belmont will attempt to create pressure against the opposing backcourt, attempting to minimize the Falcons noted athleticism. You can expect junior Abbie Morin and sophomores Bridgette Martin and Meredith Christo to coming in often to spark the defense.

Offensively, it will come down to Belmont’s sophomore Nina Minicozzi who has been a whirlwind down the stretch scoring in double digits and junior bomber Reese Shapazian who has been deadly throwing up threes. Expect the McDevitt sisters – junior Emma and sophomore Sophie – and junior Addie Wagner to contend under the basket on both ends of the court.

“I think we are a dangerous team to anyone in the tourney,” said Head Coach Melissa Hart. “We do need to clean up some things and we can be a little emotional when things go well or not so well. But I think this is a team that can advance.”

Belmont Girls’ Hoops Streak Into Playoffs; Revenge Loss To SpyPonders For 11th Win

Photo: Belmont’s Sarah Dullaghan with the layup against Reading, part of the five game winning streak the Marauders continued with its win over Arlington.

You could hear the laughter and cheering of the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team as the bus entered the high school parking lot Friday night, Feb. 7.

And why not? The Marauders, which punched its ticket into the Div. 2 North Sectional tournament earlier in the week with its away victory over Wakefield, arrived back from a statement victory over playoff bound Arlington, 58-43, securing its 11th win and fifth in a row.

“We played the best half of the season,” said junior guard Kiki Christofori getting off the bus after avenging a four point loss in January to the SpyPonders.

The win puts Belmont (11-5) securely in second place in the Middlesex Liberty, a game clear of Lexington and Arlington, with two games remaining in the regular season.

Entering the second half a point down to the SpyPonders, 28-27, Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart decided to up the defensive pressure on Arlington’s big scoring threats, juniors Claire Ewen and Ava Connolly by inserting a pair of youngsters in the line up; sophomore Meredith Christo and first year Sophie McDevitt.

And despite the efforts by Arlington to get their scorers the ball, “those two just really did a great job,” said Hart, also pointing to the effort by another sophomore Sarah Dullaghan, Christofori and junior Abby Morin as Ewen and Connolly finished the half with just 9 points.

On the other end of the court, sophomore Nina Minicozzi equaled her first half total of 7 points in the third alone before leading the Marauder charge in the fourth with nine for 23 points for the game as Belmont doubled up the SpyPonders 31-15 in the half.

Junior Reese Shapazian, who threw in three 3s in the second quarter to keep the Marauders close, finished with 10 while Christofori finished with eight as did McDevitt.

“We are playing our best at the right time,” said Hart, acknowledging that the team finishes up with home games against Burlington (12-5) and Woburn (15-1, ranked 14th in the Boston Globe Top 20) which beat Belmont by 11 earlier in the season.

“Burlington is very good and have three kids that are just long athletes so it’s gonna be a struggle,” said Hart.

Belmont Girls Hoops Grind By Watertown, Reading As Playoff Berth A Win Away

Photo: Kiki being Kiki: Belmont’s Christofori playing her game.

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball secured a vital pair of home victories putting them a game away from securing a return trip to the Division 2 North sectional playoffs.

But the wins over arch rival Watertown and always tough Reading were throughly grind-them-out affairs in which the Marauders found a fourth quarter savior who secured the victories.

Against the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 28, sophomore Nina Minicozzi came off a four point first half to score 14 in the second – nine of those in the fourth – to give the Marauders the needed offensive punch to pull away from their cross border challengers, 54-34.

After falling behind 7-6 after the first quarter, Belmont’s Sophie McDevitt put the team on her shoulders as the first year became a target down low for her team mates cutting in the lane, scoring three hoops from in close. And given the chance, the sister of Belmont’s starting center Emma McDevitt buried a three as she hit for 10 of her career high 14 in the second quarter to give the Marauders a 23-14 lead at the half.

Belmont welcomed Reading to the Wenner Field House for a Friday night tussle that saw a pair of big quarters for both teams. After a close first quarter (15-11 Belmont), the Marauders pulled ahead 23-16 with three minutes remaining. That’s when the Rockets took off going on a 10-1 run behind sophomore guard Jackie Malley who knocked down six-for-six from the charity stripe to go along with a 3-pointer to give Reading the half time lead, 26-24.

The third quarter resembled an alley brawl as both team’s defenses were physical and uncompromising to anyone attempting a shot within 10 feet of the basket. Two free throws from junior Kiki Christofori (tied with Malley for game high 15 points) with 35 seconds remaining closed the gap to one, 36-35, only for Reading to hit a three and a follow up with zilch on the clock to give them their biggest lead of the game, 41-35, entering the final eight minutes.

The fourth was Belmont’s as its pressure defense shut down the Rockets. Reese Shapazian’s NBA-distance 3 with six minutes remaining gave Belmont the lead, 42-41, and her second trey – a buzzer beater from a wild rebound from Minicozzi upped the lead to six, 48-42, with four-and-a-half left on the clock.

It was a wild last minute as Belmont saw its 51-44 lead to a single possession, 54-51 with 10 seconds remaining when sophomore Sarah Dullaghan (five points including a behind the head layup and a three pointer) the smallest Marauder, blocked a desperation three to effectively end the game.

Belmont will take on streaky Wakefield (7-9 but with victories over Burlington, Wilmington and Arlington) as they begin the final two weeks of league play.

After Garden Party, Belmont Girls’ Hoops Sprint For Tourney Spot

Photo: Belmont Girls at the garden.

After a once-in-a-lifetime trip to play on the parquet of TD Boston Garden early Saturday morning, the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team gets back to the grind of securing a spot defeating arch-rival Watertown, 54-34, on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

With eight wins, the team needs to secure two wins in its final five games of the regular season and could reach that mark in the next week as they’ll be matched up against a team they have previously defeated and one of the streakiest squads in the Middlesex League.

Belmont’s Nina Minicozzi (14) vs Watertown.

The Marauders will take on Reading (6-7) on Friday, Jan. 31 – Belmont defeated the Rockets by 10 earlier in the season before they head off to Wakefield (6-8) which has beaten some of the best teams in the league before losing to some of the weakest squads.

Belmont broke a two game losing streak defeating Winchester, 61-49, on Friday night, Jan. 24 then finding themselves with a 9:30 a.m. tip-off against last year’s Division 2 South champions Pembroke.

The game – which was an MIAA endowment game – will not count against the teams record when it come to seeding or making the tournament. It was a chance for both teams to spend out their bench players who played the entire second quarter. In the end, the Patriots took home a 56-40 victory which was closer then the score indicated.

After starting off the season with a 6-2 record, Belmont played a string of games in which teams began focusing their defenses around stopping Belmont leading and most consistent scorer, sophomore guard Nina Minicozzi.

With junior center Emma McDevitt out of the lineup due to a twisted ankle and the team missing three starters from last year’s North finals squad – two graduating and playing for 19-0 Bowdoin and another recruited away – Minicozzi finds herself facing a double team or physical man-to-man situation resulting on the second year starter prone on the court.

Belmont was back home Tuesday at the Coach Lyons’ Court against the Raiders in a game which took a quarter just to get started. By the end of the first quarter, both teams struggled to score less than one point per minute with the Raiders leading, 7-6.

Watertown, behind sophomore forward Taylor Lambo’s low post shooting, upped its advantage to 14-10 midway through the second quarter before Belmont found an unexpected source for its scoring woes as first year Sophie McDevitt. The forward scored 10 of her career high 14 points taking passes from diving guards for uncontested layups while knocking down a three when given the time and space. Behind McDevitt, Belmont ended the half on a 13-0 run to lead by nine, 23-14, at intermission.

The game was notable as Belmont played an aggressive press defense, constantly doubling the ball and coming up with a slew of turnovers that allowed Belmont to pad its advantage to 37-20 entering the final eight minutes.

With a bit more space on the floor, Minicozzi was able to drive to the basket and also hit a three in the final quarter to finish with a game high 18 points.

BYBA, Marauder BBall Appreciation Night Tuesday; Girls Back To The Garden Saturday

Photo: The girls at center court at the TD Boston Garden.

Belmont will celebrate its basketball community on Tuesday, Jan. 21 as the Belmont High vs. Lexington High Girls’ Hoops game will be Belmont Youth Basketball Association and Marauder Basketball Appreciation Night at the Wenner Field House. The varsity game starts at 6:30 p.m.

There will be FREE admission for all players wearing BYBA or Marauder Basketball gear. During halftime of the girls’ varsity game, a Team Spirit Showdown where teams and individuals will come on center court to show their basketball spirit.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, the Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball team returns to the Boston TD Garden to take on Pembroke High in the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational. This is the third time the girls have played at the Garden in the past five years, defeating Chelmsford and Arlington in their past two visits.

Tip off is at 9:30 a.m.

BYBA and Marauders Basketball players who interested in playing at halftime of the Belmont High Girls Varsity game at the TD Boston Garden on Saturday should let their BYBA coaches know and/or sign up here:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b0948afaa2da75-play

Tickets for the “Garden” party is $20 for general admission to games all day  (re-entry permitted). If you cannot attend but would like to support the girls basketball efforts, you can purchase tickets to donate.

You can support by buying tickets from Belmont Girls Basketball in the following ways and coming to cheer them on:

Checks should be made out to “Marauder Basketball Association” and sent to Attn: Girls Basketball, Coach Melissa Hart, Athletic Department, Belmont High School, 221 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA

Thank you for supporting our Belmont girls team! Hope to see you there!For further questions or help getting tickets please email:  4belmontkids@gmail.com

Back To The Finals: Team Victory As Belmont Girls Hoops Stifles Andover In Sectional Semis

Photo: All photos by David Flanagan.

The Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team conducted a masterclass in winning as a team as the Marauders’ used a smothering defense and “step up” offense to defeat a strong and talented Andover High squad, 51-44, in the MIAA Division 1 North semifinals,

“That was a big time team victory,” said Melissa Hart, Belmont’s head coach now in her 9th year at the helm of the program.

The Marauders have now punched its ticket for a return trip to the Sectional finals for a rematch with last year’s opponent, Central Catholic, at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. The finals will be held on Saturday, March 9, at 6 p.m. 

The team win was to Jess Giorgio, the team’s senior leader, the columination of a season worth of hard work.

“I’m really proud of this team. It was a lot of fun tonight,” said the four-year starter who along with her fellow captain, Megan Tan, have committed to Bowdoin next year. 

Head coach Melissa Hart said when Andover – which won 18 games this season – would have a spurt in the second half, the Marauders did not loss its nerve. “The seniors are fired up and focused. They’ve been good leaders and dedicated.”

The Belmont win was accomplished by each player stepping up when out on the court, which Hart noted, was sometimes just for a few minutes or after they had made a miscue. 

For sophomore center Emma McDevitt, it was burying two free throws after being slammed to the court seconds after being shoved to the floor for the first time, senior Ella Gagnon loomed large under the boards, and freshman reserve guard Bridgette Martin hit a pair of 3s and scored a critical eight points in the second quarter to allow Belmont to extend its lead at the half, 29-21.

“People gave me the ball knowing I can score,” said Martin. 

Trailing only once in the game, at 0-2, Belmont was able to out hustle the Golden Eagles early to take an 8-2 lead only to see a duo of threes cut margain to 2 at the end of the first, 10-8. After seeing the score tied at 10-10, Belmont would go on a 7-0 run on Martin’s 3 and a 2 followed by give and go when Tan passed to an open Maiya Bergdorf. Belmont kept rolling with Martian’s second 3 followed by a midrange bucket by senior forward Jane Mahon and a “why not” 3 from sophomore point guard Kiki Christofori to give Belmont an 8  point lead, 29-21, at the break.

Despite stepping up its defense and opening up on offense, Andover could not throw off the smothering zone defense Belmont has been known for all season. A Giorgio 2 inside and a Mahon bucket increased the lead to 33-23 midway through the third. Andover closed the game to 6 at 38-32 with a minute to play in the third but McDevitt’s clutch free throws after being mauled and Giorgio’s putback off a miss reupped the score to give the Marauders a 10 point lead, 42-32, at the beginning of the fourth. 

Andover crept back into the game at 45-39 with 3:35 remaining in the game. But a critical block by Mahon, who finished co-high scorer with Martin with 8 points, who scored on a backdoor pass on the other end of the court followed by Gagnon’s own backdoor hoop, to make it 49-39, all but sealed the victory. Sophomore Nina Minicozzi iced the win with a pair of free throws to make it a three possession game with 18.4 seconds to play.