Photo: Belmont High Senior Co-Capt. Mia Ferrari and sophomore Sophia McClendon vs. Lexington
The good news: Both Belmont varsity basketball teams are playoff bound having secured their 10th win this season.
The flip side: The Marauders Boys’ and Girls’ are not looking, just quite yet, ready to withstand a tournament game much less going on a playoff run in the MIAA Division 1 post season that starts next week.
Case in point: Seniors Night games on Feb. 9 against Lexington that both Marauder teams hosted at the Wenner Field House. It’s certain Belmont’s girls and boys will be meeting similarly skilled squads as Lexington in the playoffs which gave the games a Cassandra quality peering into the future. And while Belmont was able to keep both games outcome within a couple of baskets, the Minutemen demonstrated just a bit more basketball smart to carry off the wins by the final buzzer.
Too much second quarter Sam
In the opener of last weeks doubleheader, the Belmont Boys’ were coming off a 5-2 stretch to earn its 10th victory demolishing Woburn, 59-29. But despite a 10-6 overall record, Belmont’s all important MIAA Power Ranking – which is used to seed the teams in the playoff – was a paltry 41st in which the first 32 teams automatically make the tournament. Teams with a .500 record or better are added to the post season but must win a play-in game against the lowest automatic teams to make the 32-team tourney.
Friday’s matinee game set two teams with nearly identical records. Lexington’s power ranking was 40th and they were seeking its 10th win. The Marauders took advantage of its tall, physical forwards – senior co-Capt.’s Donovan Holway and Gabriel Meyer-Herron with junior Ryan O’Byrne – to get off to a 15-10 first quarter lead.
But the second quarter quickly turned into “Showtime with Sam” as Lexington’s Sam Myerberg had career eight minutes. The sophomore guard started by hitting consecutive 3’s, then going one for two from the free throw line then hit two more treys finishing the quarter with 17 points and 22 for the half to push the Minutemen to a 35-29 lead after the first half. Belmont relied on its big men specifically Meyer-Herron but too many times on the court the Marauders were not executing with quickness allowing Lexington to hold the advantage to the frustration of Head Coach Darren Martinez.
The Minutemen continued their onslaught this time highlighted by senior co-capt. guard Derin Ongur (19 points for the game) who canned two threes and a straight away jumper to increase the lead to 48-31 with three minutes left in the third quarter. While this could have been a good time to think about its next game, Belmont got back in the game as Meyer-Harron and O’Byrne headed inside the paint to score and drag the team to within nine at the end of three, 48-39.
Belmont up the tempo in the fourth and got to the charity stripe three times only ending up missing the six free throws they were awarded. The Marauders kept chipping away, cutting the Minutemen lead to 57-53 with two to play. But a technical foul on a Belmont player gave Lexington four shots from the line and they didn’t miss to put the lead back to eight, 61-53 with 1:05 to play. And when Myerberg hit for a three – he finished with 32 points – on the next time down the court, that was all she wrote as Lexington eased to a 68-63 win.
Stella stellar for Lexington
The nightcap saw Belmont Girls coming into the game on the wrong end of a three game losing streak, seeing them drop to 14th in the power ranking at 10-7, getting uncomfortably close to the 17th ranking which would result in the Marauders missing out on hosting a home game. Facing them was 12-4 Lexington – 8th in the power rankings- squad that defeated Belmont earlier in the season, 48-39.
After the tipoff, the Minutemen showed immediately their skills, using quick cutting runs through the paint to open space against Belmont’s zone defense for easy baskets to lead 9-4 midway through the quarter. But lead by senior capt. Mia Ferrari and sophomore Sophia McClendon, Belmont fought back to where a pair of free throws from junior Brynn Connolly to tie the score at 13 after one.
Belmont came out with purpose and snatched the lead, 18-17 off a junior co-captain Linda Sheng drive with 6:20 to play in the quarter. But just like the boys’ game, a Lexington player took hold of the game in the second quarter and didn’t let go. Junior guard Stella Crinti started with a three pointer, followed by a stop and shot basket, than a layup on the break and then handing out two pitch perfect assist to take the Minutemen from one down to 10 up before a three from finished a 13-0 run to give the Minutemen at 30-18 lead that the visitors would not give up. Belmont through Sheng would cut the lead at the half to 30-23.
If there was a statistic that showed the advantage Lexington brought to the game occurred early in the three quarter when the Minutemen took down five offensive rebounds on two possessions resulting in two baskets, one courtesy of a Crinti turnaround to up the lead back to 12 at midpoint in the quarter. Lexington led by 18 – 48-30 – when McClendon went on her one run with two in close buckets and a three to pull Belmont back to 11 only to see that Crinti player hit a three to give Lexington a 51-37 advantage with six left in the game. But Belmont made it interesting with McClendon and Sheng cutting the lead to 56-47 before – guess who – Crinti putting the knife in any hope of a miracle comeback with a straight away three making the score 59-47 as the Minutemen put this win to bed, going home 63-55 victors.
The Belmont Girls would subsequently loss their remaining three games of the regular season to finish the campaign at 10-10 and likely miss out on holding a playoff game. The Boys’ went 1-1 since the Lexington game – a loss at Winchester before winning against visiting Billerica. They have two games left this week against Westwood and Malden Catholic before the start of the playoffs.