Sports: Belmont Girls’ Routed by All-Star Kelly, Lexington, 62-43

Photo: Senior guards Ani Maroyan (4) and Sofia Cellucci (33) ran a positive offensive set when they were in the game vs. Lexington. 

After taking one of the best Division 1 teams in the state (Woburn High) to the final second in its last game before falling by a single point, there were high hopes Belmont High Girls’ could take the measure of Lexington High – another Division 1 top-ten team – when they visited the Minutemen on Friday night, Jan. 8.

And the Marauders did just that … for the first quarter. Unfortunately, Belmont (4-2, 4-2) had another 24 minutes to watch Lexington (6-1, 6-0) and its Fordham-bound state all-star guard Anna Kelly toy with the Marauders as the Belmont girls were on the wrong end of a 62-43 pummeling. It wasn’t that close. 

In the first quarter, Belmont behind the hot shooting from inside and outside from sophomore point guard Carly Christofori (hitting a dozen with a three-pointer and going 3-3 from the free throw line) was applying pressure on Minuteman’s defense. Christofori was assisted by her 10th-grade colleagues starting forward Jenny Call (5 of her 10 points in the first) and Greta Propp (5 points) who came off the bench to play a strong game on both ends of the court.

Lexington kept the game close by going over Belmont’s tight perimeter defense, hitting five threes (a pair each from Kelly and fellow senior guard Eleanor Van Arsdell) as opposed to a single 2-point bucket in the quarter. 

A Christofori three-point play followed by another drive and bucket and finally a Propp put-back of an offensive rebound gave Belmont its largest lead at 20-13 with 1:25 left in the opening quarter.

That would be the Marauders’ high water mark as Belmont would be outscored and outclassed 49-23 for the rest of the game.

In the second quarter, Kelly (27 points including four threes and double digits in assists) used her quickness and court awareness to pressured Belmont’s defenders who appeared unnerved matched up against the three-year All-Scholastic guard who two years ago dropped 52 points against the Marauders, the third-highest points total by a girl in Massachusetts basketball history.

Surprisingly, Belmont’s defense would hold the Minutemen to 13 points (9 from Kelly) in the quarter. What doomed the Marauders was its inability or unwillingness to take a shot at the basket. At the end of eight minutes, the Marauders could only muster an estimated ten shots at their hoop, the majority wildly off the mark. Only a mid-range jumper from ever improving Freshman center Jess Giorgio prevented Belmont from putting up a goose egg for the quarter. When halftime finally came, Belmont was looking up from a nine-point hole, 31-22. 

Belmont did come out of the break with a spark as Christofori followed up her rebound with a basket and when Call hit her second three of the night, the Marauders were within six points at 33-27.

That’s when Kelly put on a skills clinic on how to single handily beat a team into submission. Kelly ran head-on at the Belmont defense causing all sort of chaos and confusion in the Marauders end of the court. From there, Kelly would either coolly stop and hit long-distance threes or drive to the basket before dishing off pinpoint assists to teammates under the basket. Seven Minutemen scored in the quarter totaling 22 points and in less than three minutes it built its lead from seven to 20 (49-29) as a totally dispirited Belmont squad could only eek out four points from the free-throw line in the final six minutes. 

The last quarter was reserved for the role players, some who shined on the court. Senior guard Ani Maroyan (8 points) was only too happy to show off her raindrop shot from distance scoring a pair of threes and with fellow senior Sofia Cellucci ran an efficient offensive set. 

Belmont is traveling to Winchester on Tuesday, Jan. 12. 

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Sports: Boys’ Hoops Sneaks Out of Lexington with Thrilling OT Win, 76-74

Photo: Belmont’s Matt Kerans heading to the basket in OT v. Lexington.

Wow. Talk about pulling one’s bacon out of the fire.

Thanks to two outstanding plays by a pair of role players, Belmont High Boys’ hoopsters crawled themselves out of a deep hole they helped dig and somehow got out of Dodge with a thrilling 76-74 victory over a gutsy Lexington High squad on Friday night, Jan. 8.

“Good high school game,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard with a wry smile as the team recorded its seventh win against three losses. They are tied with Reading (6-1) with one loss (4-1) in the Middlesex League Liberty Division.

It’s never easy to come off the bench and contribute but luck for Belmont, two players did just that. A three-point bomb from the corner by Belmont junior Daron Hamparian (5 points) tied the game at 67 with 48 seconds in regulation and sophomore Tomas Donoyan’s (2 points) jumper for two after Lexington blocked a Paul Ramsey (12 points) shot with 30 seconds gave Belmont the lead at 69-67 – part of an 8-1 Marauders run in the final 100 seconds – before Lexington’s Jack Amsler forced overtime with his own bucket with 23.4 seconds remaining.

In OT, Belmont’s big man senior Joe Shaughnessy (3 of his 5 points in overtime) put back an offensive rebound to give the Marauders the lead by one, 73-72, then senior point guard Matt Kerans stole a pass and beat the game’s number one star, Lexington’s center Spencer Kendall, to the hoop to up the lead to 75-72. Two previous times Kerans attempted layups against the junior, Kendall (23 points, four blocks, more than a dozen rebounds) slammed the shot back at Kerans.

With Lexington down by one and with the ball, an attempt by sophomore guard Jermaine Fernandes fell into Shaughnessy’s hands to hit one of two from the charity stripe with 1.5 seconds remaining and with that Belmont got to sneak out of town with the victory. 

“We didn’t quit when a lot of teams could have, and we made a couple of key steals and a big fast break put back which was such a heady play,” said Pritchard.

“When guys run, and they don’t quit, you can make it happen,”

Not that it appeared an hour earlier that Belmont would need extra time against the winless Minutemen (0-6, 0-4). For the second straight game (a convincing victory over Woburn), Belmont came out smoking. Behind the three-point shooting of senior guard Cole Bartels (four 3s in the first quarter before finishing with 15 points) and a three, a two and a free throw from his fellow backcourt companion Kerans (24 points, who along with Ramsey scored in in the four quarters and overtime) to accompany a smothering defense led by senior center Justin Wagner (10 points) allowed Belmont to run off to a 21 point lead, 27-6, at the end of the first. 

“We had a heck of a first quarter,” said Pritchard. 

But before a large crowd of supporters, Lexington started to take chunks out of the lead by throwing it up beyond the arc. The Minutemen rattled in five from distance (three from Amsler) while Kendall began drawing fouls from the Belmont front line, going 6-6 from the free throw line and ending the period with 12 of Lexington’s 30-second quarter points, and cutting the lead to a manageable seven points, 43-36, at the half.

“I think we took our foot off the throttle a little bit after a great start,” said Pritchard. 

“Maybe we got too comfortable. They played well, but we got a little tired. I probably should have used some other players at the beginning of the game to save some legs. When you have quality players you don’t want to pull them off the court,” he said. 

And that weariness showed in the second half as Belmont committed fouls and turnovers that Lexington feasted on. In the third quarter, seven Minutemen players scored 17 points while Belmont could only squeeze in seven total and found themselves trailing 53-50 going into the final quarter. 

Those last eight minutes saw Belmont falling further behind 57-52 after the first two minutes only to tie it up at 59 with a two and a three from Bartels and a jumper by Ramsey. But when Lexington’s Amsler hit his fourth three, and senior Alex Lenrow put in a steal, Lexington held its biggest lead of the game, 67-61. 

That’s when Belmont’s bench bailed out the boys. 

Next up for Belmont is at 5-4 Winchester on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

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Sports: Girls’ Swimming Powers Past Minutemen as Rockets Await

Photo: Belmont High senior swimmers and divers.

For the seniors on Belmont High’s Girls’ Swimming and Diving team, the past three meets with the Lexington High Minutemen have been heartbreakers (twice), exhilarating (last year) and always close in determining which team would win the Middlesex League title.

But for those seniors, this season’s confrontation held at Belmont’s Higgenbottom Pool on Wednesday, Oct. 14, would be an outlier as the Marauders scored often and early to easily power past the visiting Minutemen on Senior’s Day.

While the final score was 88-87, the officials stopped tallying Belmont’s score with three events remaining.

“We have a good solid team,” said Ev Crosscup, Belmont’s head coach who has been coping with a serious lung infection over the past five weeks. 

“We are continuing to work hard and don’t let down. I’m not concerned that we are peaking too soon. We should be OK going into the sectionals and state championships.” 

In two weeks, Belmont will host a red-hot Reading High Rockets, which is returning to its past prominence when it won multiple league titles.

“That will be difficult,” said Crosscup. “They have a ton of good freshmen and are also quite solid in every stroke. It should be a very competitive, exciting meet.” 

Shining for the Marauders was, predictably, senior star and co-captain Jessica Blake-West who broke Belmont’s long-standing 50-yard freestyle pool record with a blistering 24.57 seconds, one of four events that Blake-West dominated individually or as part of a team.

The four-year starter, who Crosscup called one of the best overall swimmers in the state, also took first in her specialty, the 100 butterfly in 57.34 (eight seconds faster than the field) in which she is defending Div. 2 state champion.

Blake-West started the meet joining freshman Sophie Butte, sophomore Alison Sawyer and freshman find Nicole Kalavantis to win the 200 medley relay, dipping under two minutes in 1 minute, 59.31 seconds, while later teaming up with Sawyer, Solvay Metelmann (who finished second in both the 50 free and the 100 backstroke) and Julia Bozkurtain to capture the 200 free relay. 

Joining Blake-West with multiple wins was Kalavantis, who took first in the 200 (2:05.50) and 500 free (5:36.78) where she led a Marauder sweep with senior co-captain Sara Noorouzi (second) and junior Allie Beecroft (third). 

Capturing firsts included senior co-captain Emily Quinn in her specialty, the 100 breaststroke, in 1:11.71 and junior Molly Thomas whose 1:06.88 in the 100 back qualified her for the state championships. 

Over at diving, senior Cynthia Kelsey treated the meet with a perfect score of 10 (out of three judges) in her first of six dives to win the competition.

At the midpoint of the meet, seniors from both teams received roses and balloons and Crosscup’s speech about fleas didn’t go over as well as expected. But the girls joined him in reciting a quote from one of their coach’s favorite speakers, UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“Strive each day to make it your masterpiece.” 

 

Sports: Bram the Bright Spot as Marauder Harriers Fall to Minutemen

Photo: Coming home. 

There were two powerhouses running the Clay Pit Pond cross country course Tuesday, Oct. 6: the cross country teams from Lexington High School and Belmont senior Leah Bram.

It was going to be a mighty high mountain to climb for Belmont High’s harriers to scale past the Minutemen, which has become a juggernaut program. While the boys’ fell by a convincing 15-46, the girls’ ate into Lexington’s score line, dropping a 21-34 decision against the Minutemen’s top varsity lineup (last season Lexington ran a largely second-string team against the Marauders).

Leading Belmont’s Girls’ was its steady star Brams, who has always finished first racing the Clay Pit Pond course and has only lost once in a Middlesex League duel meet in her four varsity seasons (last season to Woburn’s Gina D’Addario who is currently running at defending Division 3 national champions John Hopkins). Brams held a 20 second lead with a little over a mile remaining and finished in 19 minutes and 7.6 seconds, a season’s best and just outside her course record of 18:58.

Second for the Marauders and sixth overall was junior (a recent transplant from Washington state) Sara Naumann who split Lexington’s middle runners with a strong 20:23, followed by senior leader Sophia Klimasmith who set her season’s best of 20:50 in eighth place. Rounding out the varsity race, senior Meredith Hughes (9th, 231.01), final varsity scorer freshman Audrey Christo (10th, 21.03), frosh Eleanor Amer (12th, 22:02) and seniors Brett Koslowsky (13th, 22:04), Emma Chambers (14th, 22:16), Madison Kelts (16th, 22:45) and Carly Tymm (18th, 22:50).

On the boys side of the ledger, freshman Zach Tseng led the Marauders in 6th in 17:18. The rest of the varsity scorers were sophmore Calvin Perkins (8th, 17:37), senior Mike Ferrante (9th, 17:46), junior Manion Wilder (11th, 18:10) and senior Ian Bowe (12th, 18:17).

Sports: 18th Ranked Field Hockey Beats Lexington, Big Game Monday at Winchester

Photo: Serena Nally leading the Belmont offense against Lexington.

Facing its toughest challenge of the season, Belmont High School Field Hockey took advantage of its scoring chances and the defense chalked up another shutout to beat visiting Lexington High, 2-0, on Friday afternoon, Sept. 25 at Harris Field.

“I was sweating for all 60 minutes,” said Belmont Head Coach Jessie Smith as her squad remained undefeated at 6-0 with five shutouts and seeing the Marauders enter the Boston Globe Top 20 Field Hockey poll at 19th.

“We haven’t been in a tight game this year,” said Smith.

“We weren’t playing that well; we were nervous. We saw the name “Lexington” and in the past they’ve been a powerhouse. Today, they had some solid players, but I think we could have stepped up a little bit more. But we got the job done.”

The win over Lexington (4-2) keeps Belmont atop the Middlesex League Liberty Division as the season hits its midpoint at the end of the week.

There is no let up of the pressure on Belmont as it visits 6-1 Winchester High (ranked 18th in the Globe poll) on Monday afternoon, Sept. 28.

Two Marauders continued impressive scoring streaks as freshman Morgan Chase (four goals in the last four games) and senior Kerri Lynch (11 goals for the season, scoring in each game) tallied to improve the Marauders’ scoring totals to 31 for and 2 against.

Chase said her goals were coming from “staying wide and staying open for the ball when it goes through the middle.”

“[Chase] is the player who can get the rebounds off the pads to knock it in and that’s why she’s a great right wing,” she added.

In the most competitive game of the season, Belmont found itself relying a great deal on the back three – Sophia Stratford, Molly Goldberg and Lilly Devitt – and sweeper Molly Thayer who set up in front of goalie Christina McLeod. The defense was able to run with and push out most Lexington ventures inside the Belmont shooting circle (inside 15 meters from the goal) with Thayer intercepting many attempted passes in the zone.

Coming back to help out the defense were junior leaders Julia Chase and AnnMarie Hebalow who was under the weather for several days before the match. The pair won nearly all their one-on-one encounters including a classic battle at the 20-meter mark where Hebalow fought a Lexington forward for 10 seconds before taking possession.

After surviving three corners and one deep run towards its goal, Belmont’s offense began to take hold to the game, as midfielder and senior captain Serena Nally took control of the center of the field, setting the offense attack and keeping pressure on the Lexington midfielders, creating turnovers on the transition.

“She was our MVP today,” said Smith of Nally, noting how she “stepped up all over the field, she was where ever the ball was defensively, but she really took charge today. We were down a little bit offensively today, and she took that position right up and delivered the ball.”

Belmont’s forwards – Lynch, Chase, and Katherine McCarthy (four shots) – never allowed Lexington’s defenders and midfielders a chance to catch their breath as they pushed down the wings and through the center to keep the Minutemen on the back heel. 

It was a drive from the wing by defender Devitt which set up Chase in close to slotted the ball by the Lexington goalie at the 18 minute mark in the first to give Belmont the only goal it needed. 

And the sniper Lynch took advantage of a Nally push and netted the ball with 12 minutes remaining in the match. 

 

In Historic Victory, Unbeaten Belmont Girls’ Track Defeats Lexington

Photo: (from left) Anoush Krafian (16.1 seconds), Rachel Berets (16.8) and Sammy Kelts (17.2) sweep the 100m high hurdles in a duel meet with Lexington. 

Usually, a duel track meet between strong teams come down to the final two events; the 100 and 400 meter relays. 

That wasn’t necessary on Thursday, May 7, when the undefeated Lexington High School Girls’ Track squad visited unbeaten Belmont High School at Harris Field. When Belmont’s junior Meredith Hughes strode across the finish line to win the two-mile (12 minutes, 11.5 seconds), the Marauders piled up an insurmountable point lead so to clinch the historic victory over the Minutemen without having to pass the baton around the track.

The 70-66 victory was the first by Belmont over Lexington in nearly 15 years, and brings the 5-0 Marauders to within a whisper of winning the Middlesex League title, said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Glotzbecker, with a meet with Winchester remaining on the schedule. 

“Overall, all of our girls showed up, they were setting personal bests in a lot of different events. The came in with a positive attitude and ready to run hard and fight for the win,” said Glotzbecker. The victory outdoors comes just three months after Lexington crushed Belmont inside, 62-24. 

The meet was close with Lexington in the lead by four points, 29-25 (the first three finishers score in a meet with first receiving 5 points, second, 3 points, and third, 1 point) when Belmont made its move midway through the meet.

The comeback started with freshman standout Anoush Krafian breaking the school’s outdoor long-jump record by just over three inches with a leap of 17 feet, 5 1/2 inches. Earlier, Krafian just missed clearing 5 foot, 3 inches in the high jump, still winning with a height of 5’1″, with Sammy Kelts finishing second with a leap of 4’9″. 

In the triple jump, Kelts (33 feet, 8 inches) and Marley Williams (33 feet, 6 1/2 inches) out jumped Lexington’s Div. 1 standout senior Cathryn Pryor by 2 1/2 and 1 inch to take first and second and grab eight points to the Minuteman’s one. 

Finally, in the 100 meters hurdles, Belmont swept the top three places as Krafian (16.1 seconds), Rachel Berets (16.8) and Kelts (17.2) led the way to nine points to give Belmont a 47-34 lead. 

“Our hurdle group is hard working. They fight for every single last step that they can get. And you saw that at the finish line when [Kelts] went for the lean just so she could get that last [scoring] place,” said Glotzbecker

The hurdles have become a speciality for the Marauders as Claudia Tenner (69.3 seconds) and Kayla Magno (69.6) went one-two in the 400 meter hurdles, giving Belmont 17 out of a total of 18 points in the two events.

The Marauders protected the lead by placing either first or second in the remaining events. Williams won both in the 100 and 200 meter dashes with Megan Alper finishing third in the  200; Meghan MacAulay and Danielle Kelly finished second and third in the 4oo meters, and Julia Delhome gutted out a 2:32.1 800 meters to finish in second. After the Hughes ran the second mile by herself to the victory, Belmont had secured the win.

“We have a hard working group, they are unified as a team which is great,” said Glotzbecker. 

3 Up, 3 Down, Tournament Bound: Belmont Girls’ Hoops Strides into Post-Season

Three games in three days is a tough proposition for most professional teams. For a squad of high schoolers, a trio of games in as many days is a daunting prospect.

So when the Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball team was forced because of the numerous snow storms to play a triple header – two of the opponents playoff-bound with double digit wins – at the end of last week, the coaching staff was a bit concerned how the team would stand up to playing 96 minutes within 48 hours.

“It’s not what we are looking to end our [Middlesex] league schedule and get into the playoffs,” said Melissa Hart, Belmont’s head coach as the team was coming off a two-game losing streak and standing a single game from making the post-season.

But by 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 13, the Marauders had completed a three-peat, defeating Lexington, Wakefield and Winchester to stride into the Div. 2 North Sectional playoffs. With a pair of post-season tournament games on Monday and Tuesday remaining, Belmont has upped its record to 12-5, one of the team’s best marks in the past decade.

“It’s nice to be [in the playoffs] so some of the pressure will be off the team,” said Hart, after the team’s victory against 12-win Lexington, 51-45, on Wednesday, Feb. 11, giving the team its 10th victory and an automatic entry into the sectional tournament.

The match-up was the return of Lexington’s superstar Anna Kelly, the junior guard who scored 52 points the last time she visited Belmont’s Wenner Field House a year ago. But this time, Kelly picked up two quick fouls and sat on the Lexington bench for most of the first half.

Without their all-star point scoring and directing the squad, Lexington could not break Belmont’s unrelenting defense and the Marauders’ took the game to the Minutemen.

The game for Belmont was a tale of two players in the two halves. In the first 16 minutes, junior forward Sarah Stewart took charge, on the defensive side with four defensive rebounds, two blocks, a steal and several examples of court diving at loose balls and offensively by going three for five from beyond the 3-point line for  to power Belmont to a 28-10 lead at the half.

“Making [3 point shots] was unknown land for me,” said Steward, who said she has been encouraged by the coaches to throw up trey when she’s open.

“I now have a new home,” said Steward, who is known as Stewy by her teammates.

It was only a matter of time before Kelly would reemerge, and she did in a big way in the second half. The 5’6″ three year starter is a natural on the hardwood and she came out with a vengeance, throwing up threes and sweeping underhanded scoop shots, scoring 11 of her game-high 22 points in the third quarter to led the Minutemen back to 35-28 with the final eight minutes to play.

Soon after Stewart started the fourth with her third 3 pointer, the school’s fire alarm went off, sending players, coaches, the crowd and a collection of very young swimmers from the adjacent Higginbottom Pool out into the frigid cold for a few minutes before it was decided for everyone’s health that it was better to wait by the gym’s doors.

While many of the other players may have cooled off, freshman point guard Carly Christofori got hot for the Marauders. The 9th grader put a first-class steal on Kelly as the all-star was driving to hoop – one of Christofori’s three steals in the quarter – before racing to the offensive end to hit a trio of driving layups and going 3 for 4 from the charity stripe to score 11 of the teams 16 points in the quarter to secure the victory.

“To play against someone as good as [Kelly] and succeed some of the time is great,” said Christofori, who said the team needed to stay focus once the fire alarm went off “so we could concentrate on keeping the lead and securing the win.

Belmont’s trademark aggressive defense has been frustrating opponents who has met the Marauders for the first time and that was the case Thursday, Feb. 12 when Belmont handily defeated Wakefield, 51-30, on Seniors’ Night at the Wenner.

The Marauders pressured the Warriors – who came into the game with an identical 10-5 record – up and down the court, at times triple teaming the second Wakefield player to handle the ball. The result was 12 steals (four each from seniors Sophia Eschenbach-Smith and Elena Bragg) in a game that was the closest to a total “team” win this season. Ten Marauders’ scored and each of the 15 varsity players got time on the court.

Belmont led after the first quarter, 14-4, and 23-10 at the half with freshman Jenny Call hit two of her three 3-point in both the first and second quarter and senior center Linda Herlihy‘s mid-range jumper. The Marauders blew the game wide open with a 22-point third quarter with Stewart hitting all four of her shots.

By Friday’s away game, fatigue appeared to set in as the Marauders carried themselves over the finish line by defeating Winchester, 38-20, in a game that Hart described as “ugly.”

“Friday the 13th for both teams shooting,” she said.

Just how poor was it? Belmont led at the half 13-1. Herlihy scored a third of Belmont’s points finishing with 12 points, all from near the basket, while Call and Bragg each had 6 points.

Belmont now heads for a pair of games at the 2015 Spartan Classic in Lynn – the first against Bedford – before finishing the season with a home game Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. against Worcester North.

Kleckner Joins Exclusive 1,000 Point Club as Marauders’ Beat Lexington

Senior Adam Kleckner said he had “a few butterflies” when he came to Wenner Field House Wednesday, Feb. 11 for the matchup against Lexington.

It wasn’t the typical pre-game anxiety against a familiar rival. On Wednesday night, Kleckner was on the cusp of joining a rarified basketball fraternity: the 6’5″ Middlesex League all-star was just 12 points from reaching 1,000 points in his four-year high school career.

“It’s amazing that I was that close,” said the senior captain.

With a dozen points, Kleckner would join just a handful of Marauder boys to hit the century mark.

(Belmont’s 1,000 point club includes Steven Pollard (’86), 1,294 points; Mike Costello (’96), 1,264; Mark Mulvey (’93), 1.213; Timmie Barrows (’07), 1,126; Larry Norman (’88), 1,096 and Asa Palmer (’93), 1,055.)

It appeared Kleckner would get to the landmark early, scoring the game’s first hoop in the initial 15 seconds while grabbing a bucket full of rebounds. But when he reached 998 with three minutes to go in the first quarter, Kleckner went surprisingly cold; miscues on a few “bunnies”, having his shots blocked and then missing a pair of foul shots that would have set the mark.

The record would have to wait until midway through the second quarter as Kleckner stood at 999. A foul under the hoop put the senior on the line and the first shot, he buried the shot and entered Marauder history.

Congratulations from teammates and head coach Adam Pritchard, a commemorative ball was produced, and his parents and brothers came out onto the court for hugs, kisses and photographs to mark the occasion.

After the game, which Belmont won 64-49 to go 12-6 (and which Kleckner did not score after his milestone), Kleckner said achieving the mark was the result of “a lot of practices and training.”

“But I could not have made it without amazing teammates who helped me over the past four years,” said Kleckner.

Belmont Girls’ Hoops Stumbles to Lexington and its Superstar, 54-46

Disappointment. You could see it in the face of Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart after the team took a tumble against host Lexington High School on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

The 54-46 loss was a step back for the Marauders, who have lost two consecutive games and falling to 4-3 overall and in the Middlesex League after reeling off four straight victories.

“We were enjoying that we were that good,” said Hart of the four-game winning streak that included a victory over a strong Arlington High squad. “We have to get our focus back on basketball.”

Tuesday’s game saw Belmont never getting into the rhythm offensively it has shown since the opener with Watertown with only junior Irini Nikolaidis reaching double digits (16 points) to lead the Marauders.

And Belmont needed to up its point production as it faced someone in white and gold many of the girls’ knew only too well. Minuteman guard Anna Kelly is just a junior but has already topped 1,000 points in her career – in a game played in Orlando at the ESPN complex – while dropping 43 points against a team from California a few weeks ago. She is a superstar – she is projected to be playing top-flight Div. 1 basketball in college – that makes a very average team very good.

But Belmont knows Kelly best from last year’s match at Wenner Field House when she scored 52 points against the Marauders, a Lexington school and Belmont gym record and the third-most points by a girl in recorded state history.

Tuesday saw a more human side to Kelly, missing more shots than making and throwing up an air ball (!) while being defended by senior Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (3 points) and junior Sarah Stewart (6 points).

And while the Belmont defenders kept Kelly to “only” 24 points, whenever Lexington (6-4, 5-2) needed a basket to first take the lead (a jumper to make it 13-11 in the first quarter) or to stem a Belmont comeback (a running layup to up the Minutemen’s lead to 21-18), Kelly was there to drill another basket.

Adding to Belmont’s frustration was allowing Lexington to take uncontested three point shots. The Minutemen scored a three pointer while extending their lead including a gut-punch buzzer beater from 25 feet by junior Eleanor Van Arsdell (6 points) to end the first half, 28-22.

“Our worst statistic on defense is allowing three pointer. And they are starting to really hurt,” said Hart, pointing to Woburn who scored 5 threes.

With the lead in hand, Lexington dished out what Belmont usually does to opponents, applying close, man-to-man defense over the entire court. With the exception of freshman Jenny Call who hit a pair of threes, Belmont’s seeming reluctant to take outside shots forced the ball down low near the basket, only to find four Lexington players waiting in the paint. For Belmont’s forecourt of senior center Linda Herlihy (4 points), Stewart and senior Elena Bragg (4 points), it was like dancing in a crowded phone booth.

Belmont did rally to keep the score close (35-31), coming within three points (38-35) when freshman point guard Carly Christofori (4 points) hit two from the charity stripe with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

But there was that girl Kelly with a pair of jumpers to up the lead to 42-35 at the end of the quarter. An 11-0 run in the fourth sealed the deal for the Minutemen.

Next up for Belmont is an out-of-league matchup with Waltham High at Wenner Field House at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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