Belmont Girls Hoops Clamps Down On Wilmington In Opener, 62-35

Photo: Belmont’s sophomore center Emma McDevitt driving to the basket against Wilmington.

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball’s trademark smothering team defense was on display as the Marauders held Wilmington to 11 first half point to win going away, 62-35, in the season opener held at the Wenner Field House on Tuesday, Dec. 11. 

We’re still trying to find the best lineups to do certain things,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart. “But the lineup in the second quarter was very good defensively which was important because our offense is still pretty rough around the edges.”

That lineup had one common denominator, height. With senior captain Jess Giorgio (7 pts while leading the team in rebounds and blocks), seniors Jane Mahon (4 pts), Ella Gagnon and Megan Tan (5 pts) and sophomore Maiya Bergdorf, the Marauders forced Wilmington into a lot of weak outside shots or being swallowed up inside in a forest of arms and bodies that resulted in block shots, steals and defensive rebounds. The end product saw the Wildcats go nearly the entire eight minutes scoreless as the Marauders went on a 14-0 run to end the half up 26-11.

“They were good out there. They are large and they are quick. They’re tough,” said Hart.

Leading the way offensively was Bergdorf who was a threat on the drive and especially from the arc as she hit four 3s to end the game with 20 points, an encouraging sign after ending last season on the bench after an injury sidelined an impressive freshman campaign. 

It was an opening night in which several underclassmen shined including freshman point guard Nina Minicozzi who started the game and hit the season’s first three (ending with 8 points) while leading the offense. Sophomore Emma McDevitt came off the bench to register her first varsity double-digit effort with 10 points playing center and her fellow second-year classmate Kiki Christofori was a lively presence off the bench playing the point.

“We still have a ways to go with the offense being rusty,” said Hart who was able to empty her bench in the opener.

“And frankly, we wouldn’t want to play our best game tonight. So the good news is that we have a lot of room to get better,” she said.

Next game for the Marauders is the early match in the season’s first Friday-night doubleheader with the boy’s team at Lexington on Friday, Dec. 14.

 

Central Catholic Defense Shuts Down Belmont Girls’ Hoops in North Sectional Finals

Photo: Senior co-captains (from left) Carly Christofori, Jenny Call and Greta Propp leaving the court after falling to Central Catholic, 43-35, in the Division 1 North Sectional finals.

When the buzzer sounded at the Tsongas Arena Saturday night, March 10, it was fitting that Belmont High Girls’ Basketball co-captains where standing united for a final time on a basketball court. But it wasn’t to celebrate a first-ever finals victory but to be joined in heartache as the three senior leaders – Jenny Call, Carly Christofori, and Greta Propp – headed off after Belmont (19-4) fell to an undermanned Central Catholic High School (21-2) squad, 43-35, in the Division 1 North Sectional finals held in Lowell.

The teammates, who first played together in the MIAA North semifinals as freshmen three years ago, attempted to put a brave face on the loss but tears began as their teammates attempted to comfort them after the trio came close once again – reaching the sectional finals as sophomores and semifinals as freshmen and juniors – to holding up a championship trophy.

For Christofori, the team she led from the point guard position showed what it was made of despite trailing throughout the 32 minutes.

“It’s really sad but knowing we put everything into it this whole season and we played to the end of the game, that showed something about our team,” said Christofori after the game. “If we lost, we lost together and we worked hard for the entire game.”

In a game that highlighted team defense, Central Catholic – which was missing two starters including its team leader injured the night before in its semifinals against Lowell High – targeted the heart of Belmont’s offense as its avenue to victory. In fact, sophomore Nadeshka Bridgewater (5 points), the Central Catholic player who had the greatest impact on the finals outcome, likely would not have been on the court if it wasn’t for starter Ava Bradley being on crutches.

Central Catholic’s Head Coach Casey Grange started the quick 5’2″ guard to do one thing; pester Christofori. And Bridgewater did just that, playing a tight man-to-man defense on Belmont’s senior point guard who found it difficult to execute the Marauders’ offense or to get off a shot either from distance or on the drive. The tactic accomplished its mission in spades; where Belmont was hitting an average of eight threes in the playoffs, Central Catholic held Belmont to just three from beyond the arc. And when Belmont came inside, Central Catholic would swarm inside the paint taking away Belmont’s drives from the outside.

“[Bridgewater] definitely made the difference in the game,” said Head Coach Melissa Hart.

“They knew they had to shut down Carly and they worked really hard to take her out of the game,” said Belmont’s Assistant Head Coach Steve Conley. “She’s the guts of the team.” 

In front of a pro-Raiders’ arena, the Raiders raced out to a 7-1 lead midway through the first quarter when Belmont responded, first with a three from junior Megan Tan (a Marauder high 9 points) then a tough two from Propp (6 points) to cut the lead to 7-6. A three from freshman Adrianna Niles (who scored 10 of her 11 points in the first) upped the Raiders’ lead to 12-8 before Belmont’s center Jess Giorgio (7 points to go along with 6 rebounds) hit a pair from the paint to tie the contest at 12 after one.

Central Catholic would use its physical defense to cause Belmont turnover problems and hold Belmont to two baskets (a mid-range jumper by sixth-man Jane Mahon (2 points) and a Tan drive) and open up the court as the Raiders’ Kaylee Thomas hit two from distance (six of her game-high 17 points) to build an eight-point lead, 24-16, at the half.

There was a glimmer of hope in the third when Call hit her trademark three-pointer – she ends her four years as the team’s career leader in threes – at the 7:00 mark followed by a pair by Propp from the free throw line and a spinning layup by Giorgio to keep the game close at 26-23 at 5:35. But a basket and a three from Thomas upped the Raiders’ lead to 31-23 midway through the quarter. But a Tan fast-break layup and a transition three by Christofori (her only points of the game) would see Belmont chopped the lead to five (33-28) entering the final eight minutes.

The final quarter turned out to be a march to the free throw line as Belmont committed its seventh foul early. After making two of four from the line, Central Catholic got the lead to six when the Marauders went on its final run of the game. Call drove and scored while being fouled to cut the lead to three, 34-31, then Propp was hit going up and made her free throws to cut Belmont’s deficit to one, 34-33, with five minutes to play.

But after that spurt, Belmont would be forced see the Raiders head to the free throw line on four consecutive trips down the court as the Raiders’ went 6 for 8 to increase the lead to 40-33 with a minute and a half remaining. A foul on Call resulted in Belmont cutting the lead to five, 40-35, but it came with 49.6 left. Needing the ball, Belmont fouled and while senior Maura Smith (2 points) missed a pair, Belmont could not capitalize on two trips down the court.

In the final quarter, Central Catholic scored all its 11 points from the line on 20 attempts, compared to the Marauders going to the charity stripe six times making five.

“They definitely earned it. They made up turn the ball over and got us out of our game,” said Hart. “And then, they made more baskets then we did.”

And while the past four years – which the Marauders have gone 66-26 in league and playoff play – has been a testament to the growth in the program, Hart lamented the five seniors – including Ally Shapazian and Kylie Rhone – couldn’t make an appointment to play for the Eastern Mass championship at the TD Boston Garden.

“Those seniors worked so hard all four years. It’s a shame it had to end here,” said Hart.

Belmont Girls’ Hoops Crush Woburn in Semis, Playing North Final Saturday at 6 PM

Photo:

The latest edition of the Belmont vs Woburn girls basketball rivalry was less a grudge match – both teams winning at home during league play – than a straight up beat down as the Marauders thoroughly outplayed the number 1 seeded Tanners in the Division 1 North semifinals to walk off the court with a 58-47 victory on Thursday, March 8 at Burlington High School.

Belmont (19-3) will meet number 2 seed Central Catholic High School of Lawrence (21-2) in the North Sectional finals at 6 p.m. at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena after the Raiders defeated Lowell, 56-43, on Friday. 

Against Woburn, senior point guard Carly Christofori was her own highlight reel, barely missing a triple-double scoring 18 points (including four threes) to go along with 11 rebounds and 9 assists to quarterback the Marauders’ offense with the finesse of a veteran Middlesex League All-Star.  

“We played Woburn twice this year … and we end up [Middlesex League Liberty] co-champs. So when we heard we were playing them in the tournament, we were really excited for this game and pumped up because we knew we could compete against a bigger town and a big team like Woburn,” said the four-year starter who reaches her second North final on Saturday.

“Carly was immense, what can you say?” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart. “Her shooting was so great, especially the threes. I don’t think she missed any tonight.”

While Belmont was impressive on the offensive side of the ball, it was the team’s half-court defensive scheme which was the game’s difference maker. After coming off an 83 point performance against Beverly, the Tanners found the Marauders’ match-up zone defense suffocating, allowing Woburn only single digits (5 in the first and 7 in the second) in the first two quarters.

“The kids were talking, moving and rebounding all night. Woburn didn’t have as good a shooting night as they sometimes have,” said Hart. “It was that our girls were right there all the time.”

Junior center Jess Giorgio gave Belmont a spark in the first quarter with four points in the paint, a pair of assists and a block in the first eight minutes.

“Before the game, the whole team was so excited to meet Woburn because we said the whole year that the real game was going to happen at the tournament,” said Giorgio.

Belmont blew the doors off the game in the second quarter. In the final 4:48, the Marauders outplayed the Tanners to the tune of a 16-2 run highlighted by a barrage of consecutive threes starting with senior Kylie Rhone, and followed by Christofori with the final two treys from junior guard Megan Tan (13 points to go with her 27 against Andover) the final bomb coming with 8 seconds remaining to give Belmont a 31-12 lead at the half.

If there is a bugaboo for Belmont teams in the past three playoff seasons, it’s been a tendency to come out flat in the third quarter and see a lead evaporate. But on Thursday, Belmont came out firing with Greta Propp powering for a layup for the first points in the half to push the lead up to 21, 33-12. For every Tanner basket, the Marauders had a response; Jenny Call hitting a three and Jane Mahon popping a mid-range jumper to keep the lead at 21, 38-17, midway through the quarter. A Christofori killer three off the dribble with 58.1 seconds remaining built Belmont’s lead to its largest margin of the game, 23 points (45-22) effectively putting the game in the Belmont win column.

The fourth quarter had a sense of inevitability of the outcome. Woburn would cut the lead to 13 – with the help of less than stellar free throw shooting by the Marauders which shot 6 for 20 from the charity stripe – and had a chance to bring it to 10 with 1:20 to go but missed free throws ended the mini-surge well short of troubling Hart or her team. When the buzzer sounded, Belmont took to the floor to celebrate. 

“We knew we could win and this just proves we belong in Division 1 with any team,” said Christofori. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jake Pollack under the basket vs. Melrose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow start, fast finish as Boys’ dismantle Melrose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Belmont 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Danny Yardemain driving to the hoop against Winchester.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls Back On Track

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Second 3 Gives Woburn The ‘W’ Over Belmont Girls’ Hoops, 58-55; Boys’ Wallop Tanners

Photo: Belmont’s Meghan Tan scoring and being fouled in the game vs. Woburn. 

Woburn High senior forward Kelsey Qualey hit an uncontested three-point shot with eight seconds remaining to negate a final minute 10-0 run by Belmont High to beat the Marauders, 58-55, in a barnburner on Friday, Feb. 2 in Woburn.

Qualey’s trey, her only three of the game, came after Belmont rallied from a 55-45 deficit with 1:29 remaining in the fourth, as the Marauders’ senior co-captains Greta Propp and Jenny Call hit consecutive three-point baskets to knot the game at 55 with 36 seconds left in the half.

But when Woburn came down the court, Belmont’s defense “lost” Qualey as she drifted to the left of the basket and had a wide-open shot at the hoop that she calmly sank. A final second attempt by senior co-captain Carly Christofori – an underhanded left-hand prayer that hit nothing but net – was negated by a traveling violation.

“That was a huge shot because we wanted to get into overtime,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart after the game. 

“[Woburn]’s defense was fantastic and we didn’t move the ball like we should have. And they had a couple of players that had big games, they just hit more shots,” said Hart.

Belmont now sits at 11-2 with Woburn vaulting to 11-1, and into the lead for the top seed in the coming Divison 1 North sectional post season.

It’s appropriate the game was played in Woburn on Groundhog Day because as in the movie, Belmont relived the same heartbreaking outcome playing in “Wu-town” during the regular season or in the sectional playoffs.

“What are we now in Woburn? Like 0-8,” lamented Hart.

Friday’s game was filled with points streaks. Belmont opened the game on a 9-0 run – Christofori would score all 7 of her first-quarter points in the first 1:15 of the game to go along with a turnaround scoop shot from junior center Jess Giorgio – only to see Woburn storm back with its own 12-0 streak to eventually lead 15-13 at the end of the first eight minutes.

The second quarter was a tight affair when Christofori hit her second three in the half to cut the Tanner lead to two, 24-22, with 1:47 left. That’s when Woburn’s defense and three-point shooting hit its peak, creating four consecutive turnovers as senior Andrea Schiavone (12 points on four threes) and sophomore Ashlyn Pacheco – who played a tight man defense on Christofori – hit from long distance, outscoring Belmont 11-2 in the final 90 seconds to leave the court at the half up 35-24.

“We didn’t stop them when we needed to. If we would have gotten it under five with a few minutes left then it’s not a big mountain to climb. But we were down around 10 the entire second half,” said Hart. 

The third quarter saw Belmont only able to cut the lead to 7 points once (38-31) with Woburn playing a collapsing man-to-man defense, clogging the lane and using a phalanx of players to stifle Christofori’s playmaking as the Tanners kept its 11 point margin entering the final quarter.

The last eight minutes started smartly for Belmont as Giorgio – the Marauders’ player of the match working both boards and taking a leadership role on and off the court – and Jane Mahon hit baskets to cut the lead to six points (49-42) after a minute. But Pacheco would hit a basket falling to the court after being fouled to restore the lead to nine. While the Marauders were having trouble finding open shots, the Tanners were now finding themselves under pressure from Belmont’s press.

Belmont’s final run started with a Giorgio basket, followed by Christofori’s only two points in the half from a pair of free throws. On the subsequent Woburn inbounds, Giorgio forced a five-second violation that followed by Propps second three of the quarter, followed by a turnover which allowed Call – the Marauders’ career three-point leader – to make her second trey which silenced the Tanners’ cheering section as Belmont outscored Woburn 17-6 in the quarter. 

But a lack of defensive discipline with Woburn driving to the basket ended Belmont’s thrilling comeback and instead it was a return to Groundhog Day.

Boys’ Basketball Rein on Woburn

Belmont High Boys’ Hoops has found a way to beat playoff-bound Woburn: drain threes onto the Tanners.

On Friday, Feb. 2, the Marauders threw down a torrential downpour that swept aside Woburn High in a flash flood of treys as Belmont handed the 11-win Tanners a comprehensive drubbing, 85-57, in a game held at the Wenner Fieldhouse that was over at halftime.

With nine wins, Belmont is a victory away from making the Division 2 North. Woburn has dropped consecutive games (losing to Watertown on Tuesday) and stands at 11-4 as it heads to undefeated Arlington.

Belmont’s league MVP candidate Danny Yardemian led all scorers with 26 points as the Marauders completed the double against the Tanners beating Woburn last month 69-67.

Woburn guard Ryan Ludwig’s 10 points kept his team close at the end of the first, 23-17, the burgage began in earnest as Belmont put up 27 points in the second eight minutes. By the half, the led was 19, 50-31, with 30 points coming from distance with sophomore guard Mac Annus accounting for four threes from downtown. In the third, Belmont defense played its part holding the Tanners under 10 points to extend the lead to nearly 30, 70-39, entering the fourth quarter.

Belmont Girls’ Basketball Playoff Bound As It Heads Into Tough Away Games

Photo: Belmont freshman point guard “Kiki” Christofori driving vs. Watertown.

The Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team is playoff bound after defeating its arch rivals, Watertown High, 67-24, on Friday, Jan. 26 at the Wenner Field House.

Belmont (11-1) reached the 10-win postseason benchmark in its 11th game, the quickest the program has clinched a spot in the North Sectionals.

After a hard-fought, 69-49, victory over hosts Lexington in a rare Sunday afternoon matinee on Jan. 28, Belmont will play its toughest stretch this season as it meets a pair of one-loss teams in two critical away contests.

The Marauders meet 11-1 Wakefield on Tuesday, Jan. 30. The Warriors lost its first game of the season on Friday to Woburn by two points, 59-57. On Friday, Feb. 2, the Marauders travel to Woburn to take on the 9-1 Tanners, which Belmont came back from eight points down in the third quarter to defeat back on Jan. 2. 

“It’s a big week,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart. “Playing really good teams will  help us prepare for the playoffs.”

In the three games previous, Hart’s team cruised by a two-loss Melrose, 57-43, as  junior guard Megan Tan led the Marauders with 12 points, 4 steals and 5 rebounds.

The warm-up to this week’s games was against teams which have been the true nemesis of the Marauders up until 2016. Watertown dumped Belmont from the playoffs in consecutive years, first in the semifinals (2015) and then the finals (2016) of the Division 2 North Sectionals. And over four years from 2013 to 2016, Belmont was 2-6 against a Lexington team with star guard Anna Kelly (who is currently enrolled at the University of Central Florida) who once scored 52 points against the Marauders.

But this year, Watertown is in a rebuilding period and Lexington can’t mesh together its good players for a complete game. Against the Raiders, a season-high 11 Marauders scored and 15 had time on the court as Belmont’s defense blanked Watertown in the third quarter. Freshmen Maiya Bergdorf led all scorers with 19 points while junior center Jess Giorgio scored her 10 points in the first six minutes of the game while pulling down 6 rebounds. Senior Ally Shapazian threw up a three and hit two from the charity stripe, juniors Breath Healey and Alex Keefe each drained threes while junior Audrey Christo knocked in a two. Watertown senior Callie McMahon’s 14 points accounted for more than half of her team’s total.

While Lexington came into the game at 3-8, its outside three-point shooting kept the game close. Down 21-13 in the second quarter, the Minutemen went on an 11-4 run before senior all-star guard Carly Christofori last-second driving bucket gave Belmont a 27-24 lead entering the second half.

In the third quarter, the Marauders relied on its veteran backcourt pairing of co-captain Christofori and junior Meghan Tan both on offense (both scoring 7 points in the frame with senior co-captains Greta Propp and Jenny Call contributing) and defense as Belmont held Lexington to 10 points to stretch its lead to 49-34 at the end of the eight minutes.

“That is a team who played better than their record,” said Hart of the Minutemen. “They scored on the shots we gave them in the first half. Can’t do that against better opponents.”