Top Seed Belmont Girls’ Hoops Tame Panthers In Playoff Opener, 61-35 [VIDEO]

Photo: All photos by David Flanagan.

Too strong, too tall, too talented.

Those were the attributes that top-seed Belmont High Girls’ Basketball demonstrated in its Division 1 North playoff opener against Beverly High School at the Coach Lyons’ Court on Thursday, Feb. 28 as the Marauders came away with a 61-35 victory. 

“The last two games [of the season] we stumbled a little bit compared to the rest of the season,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart of losses to powerhouses Cathedral and Franklin high schools in the Comcast tournament. “So it was important to get our confidence up and back.” 

Despite a long layoff, the 20-2 Marauders came out read hot as sophomore forward Maiya Bergdorf scored eight of Belmont’s first 10 points as the home team took a 10-0 lead as the Marauders dominated the rebounding chances. 

Beverly would break into the scoring column off a 3 that banked high off the backboard by sophomore Kylie McCarthy, which sparked a 10-4 run for the Panthers cutting Belmont’s lead to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. 

In response, Hart sent out her “tall” lineup of seniors center Jess Giorgio, forward Ella Gagnon, forward Jane Mahon, Bergdorf as a guard with freshman Nina Minicozzi playing the point. Playing a tight half-court zone, Belmont closed down the inside for Beverly and limited the Panthers to one change under the boards. Mahon hit three midrange baskets and Bergdorf (18 points in her first career playoff action) had an easy two under the basket from Minicozzi to up the Marauders advantage to 10, 22-12.

When Giorgio missed the backend of two free throws, Minicozzi (14 “quiet” points) grabbed the rebound and put the ball through the hoop to finish the 1-2 three-point play, Belmont was up 25-12 with 90 seconds left in the second quarter and would go into the half up 27-16.

The game was decided early in the third when Bergdorf hit a pair of driving hoops and Giorgio hit a shake-and-bake hook shot before taking in a pinpoint pass for an easy two to stretch the lead to 19, 35-16, two minutes into the game. Bergdorf would finish off her eight-point quarter with a steal and basket followed by a pass from senior guard Megan Tan as the Marauders outscored Beverly 20-8 in the third to lead 47-24 entering the fourth.

“I just went out there with the mentality we’re going to have a team win,” said Bergdorf.

Notable performances in the game were sophomore center Emma McDevitt who came off the bench for 10 points and stellar defense and sophomore Kiki Christofori who started and gave yet another prime example of dogged defending against Beverly’s backcourt.

Belmont is scheduled to meet Middlesex League rival Woburn on Monday, March 4 in Belmont at 7 p.m., pending further weather reports. The winner of Monday’s game will meet Andover in the D1N semifinals possibly on Wednesday, March 6; if Belmont wins, the game will be played in Belmont.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls’ Unbeaten Run Continues As Marauders Secure Crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marauders’ gets pushed late but sprints to the league title

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s Number 1? Belmont! Girls’ Hoops Top Globe’s Top 20 Poll

Photo: Belmont’s Maiya Bergdorf  (41) in action against Winchester. (David Flanagan photo)

Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart hadn’t heard the news until late Wednesday, Feb. 6.

“Oh really? I did not see that,” she wrote after being informed that her team was on top of the Boston Globe Top 20 Girls Basketball poll, ranked number 1 after the two teams that had been above them for weeks on end, Bridgewater Raynham and Cathedral, lost for the first time in the previous week.

Not that being number 1 is that unusual for an undefeated team, 15-0, whose tightest margin of victory was a 10 point victory over a tough Reading squad.

(Coincidentally, Belmont’s first opponents as number 1 is against Reading which comes into Wenner Field House on Friday, Feb. 8 with a 12-3 record and only two games behind the Marauders in the race for the Middlesex Liberty title.) 

But for Hart, the rankings are fairly subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. 

“My reaction is you are as good as your last game,” she said, noting that the Globe pollsters probably “didn’t realize we were down by 1 [point] at halftime vs. Burlington.” (Her team did come back to win by 21, 55-34). 

It’s been an impressive season for the Marauders, a team which Hart can put 12 players out on the floor without any drop in skills or intensity. And it’s on the defensive side which anchors the Marauders’ game as its half-court pressure has strangled most rivals attack, limiting challengers to a meager 33 points per game. Hart has the luxury to put out a crew of tall, physical players – led by seniors Jess Giorgio, Ella Gagnon and Jane Mahon – that controls the boards.

Offensively, it’s been four-year varsity guard Megan Tan leading a collection of underclass athletes with tall sophomore Maiya Bergdorf who connects from long-range or driving to the basket and a pair of freshmen guards, Nina Minicozzi and Bridgette Martin, who lead the attack. 

Off the bench are sophomores Kiki Chirstofori, Emma McDevitt, Abigail Morin along with senior Alexandra Keefe, Breah Healey and junior Katie Reynolds. 

As of Thursday, Hart’s attention was on the coming clash with Reading who is led by its league MVP candidate senior Haley Lightbody who was not up to her usual dominating play when Belmont won 54-44 in January.

“This is a big game for both teams, but definitely a bit do or die for them” to catch Belmont in the race for the league championship, said Hart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Belmont’s Nina Minicozzi scoring on a floater in the lane in action at Woburn.

Senior captain Jess Giorgio said the last time she beat a Woburn team in their home gym was as a member of an eighth-grade traveling team. For her first three years at Belmont High, no matter how well the teams she was on played, the Tanners always found a way to hand the Marauders a loss.

So it was no small issue that Giorgio and her fellow seniors wanted to leave Woburn for the final time with the W.

“For the seniors, tonight’s game was really special. We were really motivated to win,” she said of the front end of Friday’s double-bill with the Belmont Boys’ against Woburn.

And the Bowd0in-bound center would go out a winner as Giorgio and her teammates turned in a spectacular defensive performance against a physical Tanner team to prevail, 45-26, as the Marauders held the hosts to four points in both the first and third quarters.

Leading the way to the promise land for Belmont was one of its youngest varsity players as frosh standout Nina Minicozzi struck for 14 points and 6 rebounds.

“It was physical but I had my teammates who helped me get open and that’s why we won,” said Minicozzi.

In the late game of the doubleheader, Minicozzi’s brother Tim joined senior captain Danny Yardemian with 19 points as the Boys’ took the lead early against Woburn and steadily pulled away throughout the first half to build a 49-27 lead at the half to cruise to an 81-65 victory. 

Belmont Girls remain unbeaten at 11-0 (9-0 in the Middlesex League) while Woburn dips to 6-3 (6-3).

Having not won in Woburn for as long as most people could remember, Belmont Girls’ came into the game knowing to throw out the records against a Tanner team that had been holding opponents to 32 points per game. In the first two minutes, Woburn’s smothering defense inside clogged Belmont’s lane to the basket.

Woburn would score the first four points of the game on free throws in the first two and a half minutes. But the rest of the half was all Belmont as the Marauders would go on a 19-0 run as Woburn would not score a basket until 3:13 left in the second quarter. Sophomore forward Miaya Bergdorf’s 3 put Belmont on the scoreboard followed by one of two from the line by senior guard Megan Tan (9 points) and a sweet two off a spin move in the lane by Giorgio (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) who raced down the court to emphatically reject a shot. Tan would give Belmont an 8-4 lead at the end of one with two from the charity stripe. 

The second quarter was all Belmont as Minicozzi hit from downtown as Bergdorf (12 points) dominated the defensive board with 8 rebounds in the half. A Giorgio drive for two and Tan’s bucket stretched the lead to 19-4 before Woburn could respond against a pressing half-court defense that prevented the Tanners from a clean shot or an ability to drive to the hoop.

Sophomore Kiki Christofori presented the Tanners backcourt all sorts of trouble with a smothering presence as she and senior forward Ella Gagnon (2 points) both end up with three steals.

“When I [come onto the court] I want to make bringing up the ball a challenge. That’s a big part of my game,” said Christofori, as Belmont ended the half up 24-10.

Minicozzi started the third with a running scoop shot for a basket as a Tan jumper and Bergdorf’s second 3 put Belmont up 29-14 midway through the quarter. Woburn’s late run to cut the lead to 11 (31-20) was as close as the Tanners would come as Minicozzi’s second 3 and Tan’s 3 restored a solid advantage (37-20) with five to play. Belmont’s Gagnon hit the final basket for the night with less than two minutes to put an exclamation point on the victory. 

“[Belmont] played tough defense and rebounded really well against a team that makes you work for everything,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart after the game. “This was one of our more difficult games and we had to put things together a little bit more than with other teams we’ve played.”

For the Boys’, Friday was another classic example of transition basketball with Belmont capitalizing on their speed and killer shot selection to put the game out of reach for the Tanners early in the second quarter. Belmont hit five 3s in the opening frame with Yardemian and junior shooting guard Mac Annus (16 points) knocking down a pair each to open a 26-16 lead. Senior center Dan Seraderian (16 points) was able to roam under the basket ending up with 9 points (including a 3) in the second to join Yardemian (7 in the quarter) and sophomore Preston Jackson-Stevens (two 3s in the game) to extend the Marauders’ lead to 22 points at the half.

Belmont would put the game out of reach with a trio of 3s in the third from Jackson-Stevens, Seraderian and Minicozzi who has been increasingly becoming an important part of the team.

“My teammates really look for me tonight so I had some open 3s off of assists,” said Minicozzi. “The coaches are very supportive of me and my game and I’m getting more confident on the court.”

Yardemian Breaks 1,000 Point Mark In Win Over Arlington; Girls’ Stay Unbeaten

Photo: Danny Yardemian with his folks after scoring his 1,000’s point.

It wasn’t if but when Danny Yardemian would break the 1,000 point barrier against Arlington Friday night, Jan. 11.

And the 1,000th and 1,001st points came on a layup just before the half time buzzer blared as Yardemian capped off an 18 point first half against the SpyPonders.

But any hoopla for reaching that career highlight would wait for the end of the matchup.

“Let’s celebrate a little now but let’s get back into the game,” the senior guard and captain told his teammates before heading to the lockers.

By the finish, Yardemian put up 27 points as Belmont prevailed, 77-54, in a relatively dominant team performance against the back-to-back Middlesex Liberty Division champions which usually had the best of Belmont over the past four seasons.

While the countdown on Yardemian’s 1,000th point breakthrough was one everyone’s mind in the Wenner, about the game, Belmont resembled a sprint squad at a track meet as Head Coach Adam Pritchard has the Marauders’ running, running and running some more, creating a myriad of scoring opportunities resulting in the Marauders’ putting up a gaudy 73 points per game. And putting the pedal to the metal is how Belmont shot off to a 16-9 lead after one with Yardemian leading the way with 6 points followed by 3s from junior Mac Annus (20 points) and sophomore Tim Minicozzi (14 points).

Belmont upped the lead to 35-22 by the half as Yardemian hit a pair of 3s and scored his 11th and 12th points of the second quarter on a layup from co-captain senior guard Ben Sseruwagi as time expired.

Arlington would cut the lead to 10 early in the third quarter before Annus scored 11 points of his 14 in the third on a two minute personal run to secure the win. 

After the game – and before the celebratory cake was presented with his accomplishment in icing – Yardemian thanked his teammates over the past four years “who set up plays that allowed me to score. It’s a team sport and I couldn’t do it without these 13 other guys. They’re all special.”

“It’s been a really special year for me,” said the Bentley-bound all purpose guard, having set the team’s single game scoring record at 46 points earlier in the season against Lexington. “It means a lot to get those records and have an individual banner. They all were goals I had for myself but we have bigger things to accomplish along the way.”

Belmont ups its record to 9-1 after defeating the SpyPonder and Melrose on Tuesday, coming off Sunday’s first loss of the season against Algonquin Regional in a “Heritage” game held at the TD Garden in Boston. (While counted as a defeat on its record, the Heritage game is not counted when determining the team’s seed in the MIAA postseason tournament.)

Girls’ Remain Undefeated 

It’s been a wild week for the undefeated Belmont High Girls’ Hoops squad, defeating a pair of one-loss teams, Reading and Melrose, before hosting Arlington High in the early game of the twin bill at the Wenner Field House. While its record is just north of .500, this edition of the SpyPonders are young – the varsity is made up of two seniors and nine sophomores (four youngsters are starters) – and more than happy to play a little rough and tumble. (Watch out for this team in two years time.)

While the visitors stuck around early, Belmont’s hallmark aggressive half-court zone defense and points under the basket settled the outcome of the game by the half as the Marauders remain unbeaten with a 48-30 win. Belmont is currently 9-0 (7-0 in league play) and ranked in the top five of both the Boston Globe and Herald Top 20 High School polls. 

Up five after the first quarter, 15-10, Belmont upped its defensive stance on the young challengers entering the second. And what a difference for Belmont as the SpyPonders could not stop the Marauders’ speed (Belmont had 13 steals in the game) or contend with the host’s considerable height advantage under the glass (6 blocks and 9 offensive rebounds for the team) as the ‘Ponders registered a goose egg over the eight minutes as Belmont took a 20 point cushion (30-10) into the half behind the starting backcourt pairing of senior Megan Tan (6 points in the first half) and freshman Nina Minicozzi (eight in the first) as both finished with 10 points. 

“We got a lot of offense from our guards because they were just quicker on both ends of the court,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart. 

“We passed the ball around really well and that got everyone open at some point,” said sophomore Miaya Bergdorf who was top scorer with 15 points including three 3s.

While the lead hovered around 2o for the second half, Arlington was unafraid to bang with the Marauders with each loose ball ending up with bodies lying on the deck. 

“They were physical but that really didn’t bother us because [our forwards] are pretty tall and they still were able to get the rebounds,” said Bergdorf, referring to seniors Jess Giorgio, Jane Mahon, Ella Gagnon and sophomore center Emma McDevitt who came off the bench to score 5 points and secure a game-high six rebounds, half off the offensive boards.

Belmont Girls Hoops Beat Back Reading With Strong 4th; Boys’ Quiet Rockets Early

Photo: Maiya Bergdorf scored 7 of her 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Since the beginning of the season, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart had been waiting for her team to face a “tough” contest.

“I want to see just how good we really are,” she said.

Hart got her wish granted on Friday, Jan. 3 when the undefeated Marauders found itself down by eight, 20-12, after the first quarter against an energized one-loss Reading Memorial High squad playing before its fans.

“Reading’s a good team,” said Hart. “They work hard, they’re really tenaciously defensively and that makes them tough. They made us pay for mistakes, that’s for sure.”

Belmont remains unbeaten (7-0, 5-0 in the league) and is ranked in the top ten by both the Boston Globe (5th) and Boston Herald (3rd). On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Marauders will host a strong Melrose team sporting a 6-1 record, only losing a close one to Tewksbury. Tip off is 6 p.m.

After going back and forth with the Rockets for three quarters, Belmont mounted a 10-0 run midway through the fourth, as the Marauders’ strength, height (out rebounding the Rockets by more than two-to-one) and ability to contest Reading’s shots proved the difference as Belmont came away with a ten point victory, 55-45.

“We just weren’t near the basket in the first half and we wanted to get close to take advantage of things,” said Hart.

Spearheading Belmont’s win were sophomore Maiya Bergdorf and senior Jane Mahon who stepped up during the game. Mahon, who finished with a team-high 14 points, hit first of her first six shots, each mid-range jumpers, then went four for four from the charity stripe in the fourth.

“Sure in the beginning, we lost the tempo because we’ve been playing teams that haven’t challenged us as much as Reading and we’re playing at their pace,” said Mahon. “In the second half, we said let’s play like Belmont.”

It took Bergdorf a while to get on track, before dominating the fourth quarter by taking the ball straight to the hoop, scoring seven of her 11 points in the final stanza.

“I was getting frustrated because my shot wasn’t falling. But they didn’t have much height so if I hustled into the paint, I’d have a scoring opportunity. And if I missed I’d have rebounds,” said Bergdorf.  

“She stepped up. She’s a player and doesn’t like to lose,” said Hart of her sophomore scorer.

It was also an advantageous time for Belmont that Reading’s league MVP-candidate Haley Lightbody had her first below par game on offense this season. While a threat on defense and one of two Rockets who battled Belmont under the boards, Lightbody struggled in the forecourt, making two baskets – both 3s – and going a dreadful 3 for 15 from the free-throw line (0 for 5 in the critical fourth quarter) for nine points, more than half of her season average.

After Belmont opened the game leading 6-1 (including two blocks), it was bombs away for Reading as they hit five three-pointers, a pair each by junior guard Celia Capone and freshman guard Jacqueline Malley, to take a 20-12 lead into the second.

Belmont came out in the second quarter and pressed the ball away from the basket more aggressively as the Rockets – whose tallest player is 5’8″ – could not solve the issue of Belmont’s ability to place four players near or greater than six-feet on the floor.

“We started our zone press and that helped and we stopped turning the ball over,” said Hart.

After Reading built their largest lead of the game, 27-18, midway through the quarter, Belmont began its comeback with a three from freshman Bridgette Martin (3 points). Mahon continued her hot hand, knocking down two baskets while freshman guard Nina Minicozzi (11 points) and senior Megan Tan (10 points) were able to drive and score with Tan scoring a hoop at the buzzer to cut the deficit to two, 27-25, at the half.

Belmont came out blazing in the third, a free throw by senior center captain Jess Giorgio, a layup by Tan and a three from Minicozzi gave Belmont the lead at 31-27 two minutes into the third. But the hosts came back highlighted by its quick defense and a three from Capone to lead 37-35 with a minute to play. But an inside basket by Giorgio and Bergdorf’s putback of a rebound with five seconds remaining gave Belmont a tenuous two-point lead, 39-37.

Hart started the fourth with her freshmen guard pairing of Minicozzi and Martin to run the show with Bergdorf wanting the ball. She was promptly fouled and hit 1 of 2 as did Minicozzi before Bergdorf was fouled as she hit a power drive and made the foul shot for an old-school three giving Belmont at 43-37 after two and half minutes. Another drive by the defense by the sophomore forward/guard, the first two of Mahon’s made free throws followed by Minicozzi baseline layup built the Marauders’ lead to ten, 49-39, midway in the fourth with the Rockets sensing the contest was over. Reading cut the lead to six with just under a minute remaining but it was a little too late for a comeback. 

For Mahon, the team’s success last year – a trip to the Division 1 North sectional finals – and the perfect start so far has placed a target on the team for other squads to take aim at.

“We came into the year with this expectation for us to fulfill what the past seniors left behind. People will be out for us so we have to remember to keep pushing ourselves every day,” said Mahon.

Belmont Boys Rocket Past Reading Early, Than … Meh

The Belmont High Boys team ran away and hid from host Reading – they were up 19-4 after the first quarter and 42-18 at the half – in the second game of the girls/boys doubleheader at Reading on Friday, Jan. 4.

But it soon became apparent that both teams would play the second half with the focus and intensity of a Sunday morning suburban dads league match. It could have been the knowledge that Belmont was cruising to another win (7-0 and ranked 8th by the Boston Globe), that it was already past 8 p.m. on a Friday night or that New Year’s was earlier in the week; for whatever the reason, the play deteriorated into lots of one-on-one match ups and sloppy play. Even the fans appeared ready to head home early.

Belmont’s sophomore guard Tim Minicozzi lead the Marauders with 14 points, several driving through traffic to the hoop while back court mate senior captain Danny Yardemian hit for 13 points with several Rockets following his every move as the teams got to the finish with Belmont ahead, 62-45.

Top 10 Belmont Boys’, Girls’ Hoopsters Off On Tournament Tour

Photo: Belmont’s Jess Giorgio in the paint.

After starting their seasons with four relatively easy wins and each finding a place in the top 10 of the Boston Globe’s Top 20 Poll, Belmont’s Boys (ranked 10th) and Girls (number 9) Basketball teams will be finding a tougher crowd during the holiday recess as both heads off to meet some stiffer non-conference competition this week.

After entering the recess with wins against visiting Winchester in the Friday doubleheader matches, the Marauders have Thursday, Dec. 27 dates against small-school powerhouse and regaining Division 4 state champs Pope John (the boys) in Boston and Stoughton (the girls) at Newton North. On Friday, Belmont will play 19th ranked Burke High School of Boston.

Belmont’s start to the season has been a time to put together best performances – senior guard Danny Yardemian’s 46 point single-game points record and senior center Jessica Giorgio personal high of 24 points – and prepare for a series of games against top-notch Middlesex League rivals, starting away at Reading next Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Both teams are showing an offensive punch – the Boys are averaging 85 points during the stretch while the Girls are just over the 63 point mark – while the Girls are stellar on the defensive end keeping opponents to just about 30 points.  

The Boys and Girls finished their respective early season run with comfortable wins over the Sachems. The Girls allowed only a single point in the first quarter while putting up 23, then put the game away in the second quarter as the Marauders took a 36-7 lead into the half. Head Coach Melissa Hart played everyone who suited up, allowing several reserves a chance to run the floor. Sophomore Maiya Bergdorf led Belmont in scoring with 17, followed by senior Meghan Tan with 13 and freshman guard Bridgette Martin who hit double digits with 10, as Belmont cruised to a 73-23 victory.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Hart, who said she expects Stoughton, who played Belmont tough last year, will give the regular season challenge they have been looking for.

Yardemian found that he’s made a lot more friends on the court after breaking the long-standing points against Lexington as Winchester would drape two or three defenders on the league all-star when he would head for the basket. Winchester kept it close in the first, leading 12-9 with two and half minutes remaining in the opening quarter, before the Marauders behind Yardemian, senior center Daniel Seraderian, and sixth man sophomore forward Preston Jackson-Stephens (who had his second impressive outing) took the Marauders offensively and defensively on a 10-2 run to take the lead, 19-14, at the end of the first eight minutes. 

Belmont exploded for 23 points in the second quarter led by Seraderian with a three, a hoop and two from the charity stripe and reserve sophomore guard Tim Minicozzi who contributed six to see Belmont up the advantage to 42-27 at the half. The third prove decisive, as early on Yardemian hit a three and put in a driving layup, stole the ball that sent sophomore guard Mac Annus his own layup, the first two of nine points in the quarter. He joined senior shooting guard Ben Sseruwagi with 7 points to lead the Marauders to a 66-39 point lead at the end of the third and a comfortable 83-56 win. 

Asked why he tends to schedule tough as nail opponents each school break, 19 years Head Coach Adam Pritchard said he remembers what UMass (and current Kentucky) head coach John Calipari – whom he was an assistant – saying that you should play “anyone, anywhere, anytime” especially the best teams.

“You only go around once so why not make it interesting,” said Pritchard. 

Yardemian Breaks Single-Game Points Record As Boys, Girls Hoops Down Lexington

Photo: Danny Yardemian after scoring his record-breaking 46th point.

The first Girls’/Boys’ Basketball Friday Night doubleheader saw a record fall and Belmont’s teams gather their second wins at Lexington on Friday, Dec. 14.

Boys’: Danny Goes For 46, Belmont cruises late

If there was one word that would describe senior guard Danny Yardemian night against Lexington, it would be “drive.”

As in drive from the top of the key, drive along the baseline, drive at players and drive to the hoop. By the end of the night, Yardemian drove past Belmont’s long-standing single-game points record of 44 points – held by three players – as the league all-star hit for 46 leading the Marauders to an 89-73 victory over a physical Lexington squad. 

Danny’s night included 19 baskets, a single 3, and five free throws in a demonstration of consistency, scoring 13, 13 and 14 points in the first three quarters before coming out with 6 in the fourth. Lexington’s defensive approach to Yardemian led to the majority of his points coming off the dribble.

Saying that his usually reliable mid to long-range jumpers are not yet falling, “[Lexington was] giving me the inside and I took it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said

When asked about Yardemian’s record-breaking performance, longtime Head Coach Adam Pritchard nonchalantly called it “a pretty good night.” 

“He should have scored 50,” quipped Pritchard. “I could have gotten 60 if I knew how to shoot free throws,” said Yardemian. 

After dispatching a young Wilmington team, 99-44, on the road Tuesday in the season opener, Belmont came to the Lexington High School gym for a step up in competition as the Minutemen overpowered Stoneham, 81-56, in its opener. And it was a matchup of the Minutemen’s strength and height against Belmont’s speed and having the better one-to-five on the floor. Given the inside with a single defender assigned to him, Yardemian started early, scoring 13 points as his teammates contributed 11 in the first quarter while Lexington relied on its big presence at center, senior Kase Cronin (8 points in the first eight minutes, 18 points for the game) on the inside and guards junior Will Amsler and senior Jazin Ayala (16 points each) from the perimeter. 

Belmont’s opportunist defense jumped into passing lanes and setting up under its basket would keep Lexington trailing by 7 to 9 points for most of the second quarter with senior Ben SSeruwagi and sophomore Tim Minicozzi (11 points each) assisting Yardemian who put up his second 13 point quarter to propel Belmont a 50-41 halftime lead.

Lexington would cut the Marauders’ advantage with a big and tall lineup to four in the second half, but just as quickly Yardemian was there to take on single and double defenders to score. In the third, he began calling for the floor to the cleared to allow him to either make his now patient drive or pass to a teammate such as this year’s discovery, sophomore Preston Jackson-Stephens (7 points) who left his mark on both ends of the court, with hard-nose defense under the boards and a steady stroke from outside that included a killer 3 in the final quarter. 

Belmont blew the game wide open after the Minutemen closed the gap to 68-64, going on a 13-0 run from late in the third to midway into the fourth quarter. Shortly after he broke the record, Yardemian was taken out to receive a well-deserved round of applause.

“I have to credit coach and team,” said Yardemian. “They attracted defenders, and I got one-on-ones.”

While only two games into the season, Belmont is currently averaging an NBA-like 94 points a game with Yardemian at a 31 PPG clip. Belmont takes on Stoneham at home on Tuesday and Winchester on Thursday. 

Girls Hoops Takes The Measure of the Minutemen

In the near past, a visit to Lexington was hardly a pleasant experience when the Minutemen possessed a scoring machine named Anna Kelly, she who holds the Wenner=omml Field House scoring record with 54 points. But recently, a trip to this neighboring town has resulted in happier outcomes.

On Friday, in the matinee of the doubleheader, the Marauders used a suffocating defense to run away from the Minutemen to secure a workmanlike victory, 58-29, to go to 2-0 in the Middlesex League.

“I still don’t think our offense is where it should be, but then you don’t want to play your best at this time of the season,” said Melissa Hart, Belmont’s head coach.

After trailing 2-1 in the first minute, it was all Belmont for the remaining 31 minutes as the team used its overall speed to produce a steady stream of steals while forcing bad shots as the Marauders outplayed the hosts, 34-9 in the first half. Seniors Meghan Tan (9 points) and Jane Mahon sparked the offense in the first quarter with 7 and 4 points respectively after freshman starter Nina Minicozzi hit a long-range bucket for a three for the second game running.

Sophomore Maiya Bergdorf scored 9 of her 14 total points in the third quarter to lead the Marauders in scoring. The final half was less than thrilling as both teams appeared to emphasize defense and passing than reverting to schoolyard play. 

One downside in Belmont’s win was the return of an old bugaboo that the Marauders hadn’t seen for the past three years; missed free throws as Belmont went 8 for 18 from the charity stripe.

Belmont will be on the road Tuesday in Stoneham and Thursday with the boys’ at home vs. Winchester.