Birthday Girl Allard Gifts Belmont 1-0 Payback Win Over Woburn

Photo: Belmont’s Cary Allard (right) celebrating her goal as Woburn goalkeeper Kelsey Qualey (right) looking on.

The adage goes it’s better to give than receive. And Belmont High Girls’ Soccer senior co-captain Cary Allard who turned 18 Saturday, Oct. 14, decided to give her teammates a gift to celebrate her birthday: a game-winning goal.

Allard’s strike midway through first half was enough to give the Belmont (11-1-0) a 1-0 shutout victory over a physical Woburn (12-2-0) squad in a Saturday afternoon matinee to avenge a 1-0 defeat the Tanners put on a then-undefeated Marauders Thursday, Oct. 12.

“I don’t think you’ll see us play much better than this especially passing,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach Paul Graham.

Belmont’s goal was the result of a build up from the midfield with Allard picking up a through pass from sophomore midfielder Marina Karalis splitting a pair of defenders and tipping a right footed shot by Thursday’s hero Woburn goalkeeper Kelsey Qualey at the 20-minute mark. 

Belmont held the front foot for most of the first half with twice as many shots on goal, 4-2, during the first half hour. Woburn took advantage of its quickness to increase its presence in Belmont’s defensive end in the final 10 minutes with Belmont goalkeeper junior Chloe Tingos making a difficult save facing away from the field with five minutes remaining in the first half.

The second 40 minutes was a rough and tumble affair with plenty of whistles and players on the field with a Belmont player earning a yellow card. Belmont found room down the wings with Courtney Gray working with Allard on the left. The Marauders also found success in the middle with junior center forward Ella Gagnon and senior center midfielder and co-captain Emma Sass forcing the Tanners to keep players in their defensive end.

“We were using a lot of one-touch passes to beat their speed, and that allowed us to control the game,” said Graham.

With time running out in the game, Woburn stepped up its push towards Belmont’s end which kept Mauraders’ defenders juniors Emily Dexter and Megan Tan and senior co-captain Natalie Marcus-Bauer busy. Tan was specifically active on the left side using her pace to win the majority of 50/50 challenges. 

Woburn had one final push in the last five minutes as sophomore Ashlyn Pacheco – who scored the Tanners ‘ goal on Thursday – came close to earning the tie just pushing a free header by the right post. 

“We had several players come off the bench,” said Graham. “[Senior forward Emily] Duffy played, [senior forward] Eliza [Filler] did a great job as did [junior forword] Drew [Bates]. They didn’t play 40 minutes, but when they came in, they did their jobs.” 

The victory gives Belmont a slim lead in the three-team race for the Middlesex League Liberty title with the Marauders facing a rematch with Winchester (10-1-2) away on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Sports: Mistakes Rain on Belmont Football In Loss to Winless Woburn

Photo: The Belmont High defense in pursuit.

Belmont gifted Woburn its first victory of the year with a big bow on top.

On a wet, misty night, the Marauders left a season’s worth of mistakes and miscues on the field, allowing the hometown Tanners to walk off the field with the win, 10-7, under the lights, Friday, Sept. 30.

From penalties to dropped passes, unfortunate plays, and missed opportunities, Belmont lets a good chance to carry away a victory fall flat when it could not gain two yards on three plays with a minute remaining in the game, the same scenario against the same team one year ago.

After the game, Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin lamented the team’s inconsistent play over the 44 minutes. 

“We played a great football game at times and a very poor football game at times. And in order to beat a Woburn at 0-3, we have to play a good football game all the time. And we did not do that tonight, period.”

But it was the miscues – something Belmont been avoiding this season – which did in the Marauders. 

“We had at least 70 yards in penalties if not more. I’m afraid to look. We turned the ball over on downs; we fumbled the ball on a great drive where we had some good things going, then had great opportunities to move the ball down the field and win it at the end of the game we weren’t able to do it,” said Kumin

“And that is on me. It’s not on my [coaches], not on my players; it’s not on anyone but me,” said Kumin.

The first quarter saw Belmont at its best, with the defense halting Woburn twice inside (the first on downs, the second on a fumble recovery) the Marauders’ 20 yard line after Belmont fumbled consecutive punt returns in the first five minutes.

And it didn’t take long for Belmont to strike when on the offense’s second play senior QB Cal Christofori threw a strike to wide receiver Jared Edwards catching the sophomore in stride for a 67 yard TD at the 6 minute mark.

But the misty rain effected both offenses as the defenses of both teams took control. While Belmont’s defense was stellar all night, they allowed Woburn one-to-many long runs, including Tyler Hayden’s 48-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. 

Belmont was also caught by a fake punt late in the second quarter that gave Woburn the ball on the Belmont 32. But the defense, behind Ryan Noone, Dennis Crowley and Adam Deese, forced the Tanners to turn the ball over on downs. 

The Marauders came out throwing at the start of the second which Christofori hitting Dylan Ferdinand for 27 yards to Woburn’s 15 but a fumble by the usually reliable Ben Jones end the drive.

Woburn began its second half going into a no-huddle, running effectively over the right side of the line. 

When Belmont got the ball back at the 30 yard line, the Marauders steadly moved the ball … backwards on two penalities and an ineffective pass, to the 13. And only the quick thinking of kicker Aidan Cadogan who calmly recovered a high snap and sent the ball to the 40, prevented a truely disastereous outcome. 

With momentum on its side, Woburn moved the ball to the Belmont 8, but once again the defense held behind the big rush by Deese, forcing Woburn’s Brazilian transfer student Victor Scobel to hit the 23 yard field goal with nine second remaining in the third quarter.

Once again, Belmont’s offense got close – taking the ball from the Belmont 41 to Woburn’s 30 – but a dropped pass with daylight to the goal line, a penalty and another incomplete pass gave Woburn the ball back with 6 minutes remaining. Belmont nearly stopped the Tanners on three downs but a questionable pass interference call against the Marauders allowed Woburns to run more than two minutes off the clock.

With the defense giving the offense the ball back with 1:42 remaining, Belmont started in fine form, with a Jones four yard run and then a 15 yard personal foul put the ball on Belmont’s 47. After an eight yard run, the Marauders faced a second and 2 from the 46 with 61 second left in the game. But Belmont could not pick up six feet on three plays and a win was washed away. 

“It’s going to hurt right now but [the players] live in the moment, they live in the reap,” said Kumin.

“The moment not isn’t great and live in it for a second because they are competitive guys and we are competitive coaches. And while we live in this moment and it will hurt, tomorrow we will break down video of the game and get ready for Reading, so it’s not getting any easier for us,” he said.

“I hope this is a wake-up call. We are a really good football team but in order to be great, we have to continue to not kicking ourselves in the butt and chopping our foot off. And that’s on me,” said Kumin.

Sports: Belmont Remain Undefeated With Shutout Win Over Woburn

Photo: Belmont sophomore southpaw Nate Espeline.

Break up the Marauders!

After its 3-0 shutout win Monday afternoon, April 25 over Woburn behind another stellar outing from sophomore southpaw Nate Espelin (a two-hit, six strikeout workmanlike afternoon), Belmont High Baseball has been playing some of the best baseball in the state.

Monday’s victory at the Grant was Belmont’s sixth win in as many games this season and atop the Middlesex Liberty Division, a place Marauders head coach Jim Brown is happy to be in.

“You always want to be 6 and 0,” he said.

A little over a third of the way through the season, Belmont has found a little pop in its bats which serves an impressive pitching staff – sophomores Espelin and Max Meier, both 2-0, have complimented last year’s Middlesex MVP Cole Bartels who has a 0.00 ERA in his two wins, striking out an average of 13 batters per game.

In its six games, the pitching staff has given up just two earn runs. And this is with senior starter Joe Shaughnessy on the shelf with a tweaked shoulder.

“Our young pitchers are throwing strikes and not getting into trouble. That’s a nice thing to have,” said Brown.

Espelin got all the runs he needed with two outs in the first with the big blow coming from centerfielder Bryan Goodwin who singled in two runs, part of a four hit barrage started by catcher Cal Christofori’s double and followed by singles from Belmont’s big boys, first base Dennis Crowley (with the rbi) and DH Ryan Noone.

It was left up to the lefty to hold the lead. Espelin never faced more than four batters in the innings he pitched, giving up just a pair of singles.

Next up for the Marauders is Lexington, a team they have had difficulty beating in the last three years, at home on Wednesday, April 27 at 3:45 p.m.  The Minutemen will be matched up against Bartels. 

Sports: Belmont Girls’ Nipped by Top-Ranked Woburn, 52-51

Photo: Belmont’s Jen Call (21) looking to pass to freshman Jess Giorgio vs. Woburn.

Walking off the court after seeing her team lose for the first time this season to a top-10 (ranked 5th by ESPN Boston) Woburn High team, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart looked back and said, “I should have called a timeout. Darn.”

Hart was recalling the final sequence of the game, with the game tied at 50. Belmont’s Jenny Call had just swatted an attempted inbounds pass out-of-bounds with just under five seconds remaining in the second half.

As Belmont set up its defense, the ball went into the Tanner’s league all-star junior guard Marissa Gattuso, who dribbled to the top of the key and leaned into Belmont’s freshman Megan Tan while taking the shot as the clock ticked down to zero.

A varsity move by Woburn’s leader that was rewarded with a generous whistle from the ref, sending Gattuso to the line for two shots with 0.9 seconds left.

The veteran hit the first and missed the second, giving Belmont no time for anything miraculous and sending the Marauders (4-1, 4-1 in the Middlesex League) to its first defeat of the season, 52-51.

“You know, it was a hard fought game. I think we had a chance [to win] with the ball but … ,” said Hart. “We could have been on the other side of the score. They just had the better chances.”

If there was a lesson of the game, it was to put away teams when you have them down. Belmont held nearly 10 point leads for the majority of the first three-quarters yet could never find the run which could have given the Marauders’ a comfortable double-digit lead.

But that’s hard to do with Gattuso who left her mark on the game with a bookend performance, scoring 16 of her game-high 18 points in the first and fourth quarters. After outscoring Belmont 6-0 in the first two minutes of the game, Gattuso was effectively held in check by Belmont’s swarming defense led by seniors co-captain guards Samari Winklaar (8 points) and Irini Nikolaidis.

For the next six minutes, Belmont outscored the reigning Middlesex League champions, 19-5, behind Belmont’s sophomore point guard Carly Christofori (team leading 13 points) who found the team’s other co-captain Sarah Stewart who scored 6 of her 8 points in the first quarter as all five starters scored to give Belmont a 19-11 lead. 

While Woburn (5-0, 5-0) trimmed the lead behind forward Mya Blazejowski (10 points) to 22-20 with two minutes remaining, a basket and free throw from Christofori and a layup at the buzzer by  senior sixth man Sara Lyons from a pinpoint pass from Tan increased Belmont’s advantage at the half to seven, 27-20. 

The Marauders appeared like it would sprint away from the Tanners at the start of the second half as Nickolaidis (10 points) hit a basket and a free throw to up the lead to 10 points as Belmont was effectively running the break. Freshman center Jess Giorgio, who was effective coming down with rebounds against the tall and physical Tanners while scoring on a nifty jumper, and Jenny Call with five third-quarter points kept the Marauders’ lead at seven the end of the third eight minutes, 43-36.

The final quarter saw the Marauders pick the worst time to go cold on the offensive side of the court while Gattuso decided to wake up. A three-pointer by Gattuso led a 6-0 Woburn run to cut the lead to one, 43-42, before Stewart hit a bucket from under the basket to up the lead to three.

But that lead was shortlived as a pair from the charity stripe from Blasejowski and a three-pointer by senior center Elle Brennan gave Woburn its first lead, 47-45, since two minutes in the game.  

Nickolaidis hit two from the line and a tough layup in traffic between Gattuso’s floater to see the match tied at 49 with 2:17 left in the game. Gattuso gave Woburn the lead, 51-49, on a layup only to have Christofori make two free throws with 1:01 remaining to give the game its final tie, 51-15. 

A good defensive stance saw Belmont get possession back with 35 seconds but Blazejowski anticipated Christofori’s pass to Call with 11-second remaining. It was then up to Gattuso to win it from the line 10.1 seconds later. 

Next up for Belmont is a trip to Lexington Friday, Jan. 7 for the penultimate match with the Minutemen and its Fordham-bound senior guard Anne Kelly, who once scored 52 points against the Marauders. But that was at Belmont.

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Sports: Belmont Volleyball Stage Epic Comeback Victory, Stunning Woburn

Photo: Belmont celebrates its improbable comeback victory over Woburn.

Belmont High School Volleyball’s pending loss to host Woburn High on Thursday, Oct. 15 was signed, sealed and all but delivered.

Having dropped the first two sets and trailing the Tanners 21-8 in the third, it appeared the Marauders would lose their third straight game and all but end their chances of returning to the MIAA postseason for a school-record third year in a row.

But a combination of pinpoint serving from a pair of senior leaders and a demonstration of heart and guts from those on the court gave the Marauders the opening it needed to defeat Woburn 3-2 (21-25, 12-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-10) and complete the most epic rally in program history.

“In my five years coaching this team I’ve never witnessed such a comeback,” proclaimed Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture.

“They were able to completely forget the first two sets and transform into the team they needed to be to win that game. Everyone was cheering and screaming. It was a magical atmosphere. There were even some tears at the end of the match,” she said.

The win ups Belmont’s record to 8-7, leaving the Marauders needing to win two of its remaining four games to secure a spot in the playoffs. 

Woburn won a somewhat tightly contested first set, 25-21, before taking the second quickly, 25 to 12.

“The team started off flat. We weren’t moving or communicating at all,” said Couture.

The Tanner’s quickly took charge of the third set, building a 21 to 8 lead and “running away with the match,” said Couture.

With the side out to Belmont, senior back row starter Su Jing Chen took the ball and the game in her hands as she went on a 12-point serving run before Woburn sided out bringing the score to 20-22.

The Marauders won the ball back with an immediate side out (21-22), and Chen’s fellow senior Shannon Corrigan served out the set, giving Belmont the improbable set victory as the Marauders outscored the Tanners, 17-1, after trailing by 13 points.

But the Marauders was still behind two sets to one against a team that defeated it earlier in the season. Belmont surged to a 7–1 lead in the fourth set but Woburn came back to knot the score up at 14. The score seesawed to where Belmont had a slim single-point lead 20-19, Before the Marauders outscored the Tanners, 5-2, to take the fourth set 25–21.

In the 15-point winner take-all-final set, Woburn took an early 6-4 lead before Belmont scored 4 out of the next 5 points to lead 8 to 7.

Belmont moved to a two-point lead at 10-8. Woburn drew to within one at 10-9 but would never come closer as Belmont won 5 of the next 6 points to win the set, 15-10, to complete the victory.

Couture pointed to several players as keys to the comeback, noting that senior co-captain Katelyn Messer was solid in her hitting and contributed superb defense.
“[Messer] was everywhere on the court. She read the hitters so well and was able to anticipate where to be on defense,” Couture said.
Messer’s fellow senior co-captain Faye Reagan and junior Colleen McVay provided beautiful, consistent sets on the front line while freshman Jane Mahon in her varsity debut recorded three kills and a solo block, in addition to clutch serving in the 5th set.
Couture said junior front row Fiona Martin “had a fabulous day in the middle hitting 32 for 33 with five kills.”
“Martin” was incredibly consistent and did a great job of moving the ball around the court and mixing up her attacks.”
Next for Belmont is traveling to Lexington on Monday, a team the Marauders defeated earlier in the season.

Sports: Football Losses at Home, But Gains in Stature

Photo: Belmont running back Mekhai Johnson

Belmont High School Football Head Coach Yann Kuman stood before his team moments after the Marauders found themselves on the short end of an 18-15 score against the Woburn High Tanners under the Friday night lights, Oct. 2.

“There’re no words to express how proud I am of this team right now,” said Kuman, after the team’s hard-fought encounter with the experienced Middlesex League squad.

“I say to you what I said to the guys in the huddle, you found your spot tonight. [Woburn] ran you out of the ballpark last year. You guys have more fight and more courage and more pride in what you are as football players and as men then any team I have been privileged to coach,” he said to the team.

In a near-complete turnaround in pose and technique from the previous week’s disappointing performance at Arlington, Belmont stayed with the Tanners for the entire game and had the ball with less than three minutes in the game before giving up the ball near mid-field.

“We’re just one better call, one better block, one better tackle away from a different outcome. There are a lot of these little individual moments that if it goes the other way, we are winning,” said Kumin.

The big takeaway from the game was the improvement from Belmont’s defensive front seven. Led by linemen Justin Aroyan and Lowell Haska, the defense plugged up the middle of the field, making life miserable for Woburn’s running back Brandon Moscat.

The defense forced the Tanners on a three-and-out on its first series before giving up a Hail Mary 25-yard TD pass on fourth down and 10 yards from Tanner QB Tim Concannon midway through the second quarter to give the Tanners a 6-0 lead.

The score came after Belmont held the ball for nearly 10 minutes on its first possession behind the running of Ben Jones and Marauder star senior Mekhai Johnson, who carried the ball 19 times for 165 yards. The 15 play, 59-yard drive stalled at Woburn’s 30-yard line but demonstrated a confidence in the offensive line and the running game.

“I thought the offensive line really came out to play today and did a great job,” said Kumin.

After the Woburn score, Belmont took the ball and behind Johnson’s running and critical passes from Belmont QB Cal Christofori to receivers Trey Butler (6 yards) and Joe Shaughnessy (11 yards), the Marauders drove the ball 54 yards to score on a Johnson one-yard run around the left side, taking a 7-6 lead into the half.

With Jones out of the game since the second quarter, Johnson was the man as he carried the ball six consecutive times to start the third quarter before Belmont was forced to punt.

Woburn appeared ready to give the ball right back as it faced a second down and 17 from its 13-yard line. But a facemask penalty and its ability to make a series of third-down plays allowed the Tanners to march down the field to take the lead, 12-7, on a Moscat one-yard run a minute into the fourth quarter.

Woburn was back on the march a minute later after a Belmont three-and-out that included a 29 yard Moscat run to the Belmont 19. A few plays later, Concannon snuck the ball over the goal line to give the Tanners an 18-7 lead with 5:47 left in the game.

But on the first play from scrimmage, Johnson uncorked an eye-popping scamper around left end and sprinted 74 yards for the TD, his third 70-plus yard touchdown run for the season, cutting the lead to 18-15.

Woburn’s attempt to seal the win by running the ball and taking time off the clock was turned on its head as Aroyan stripped the ball from Moscat and Belmont recovered the ball at their 36 yard line with 2:30 seconds remaining in the game.

On a third and two from the 44-yard line, Christofori’s pass to Rob Aiello was knocked out of the receiver’s hands by a vicious, but legal hit at the Woburn 45 yard line. After waiting for five minutes before resuming play, Belmont’s fourth down play didn’t make it past the 46-yard line. Woburn was able to take the time down to a few seconds before giving it back to the Marauders, effectively ending the game.

For Kumin, the game showed the best of his team as it continues to improve in the tough Middlesex League.

“That was a great football game,” a physically exhausted Kumin said.

“I thought our defense found itself a bit. Obviously, [Woburn] is a team that can do some things and I thought we shut them down pretty well. They squeaked out of here with a three-point victory. We were one play away on that last drive from making it really interesting.”

Next up for Belmont is Reading High at Harris Field on Friday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.

Belmont Girls’ Hoops Fall in All-Too-Predictable Fashion to Woburn, 55-41

If basketball gave victories for defensive intensity, the Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball squad would have a nearly perfect record.

But the game is scored by the number of baskets made, not the ferocity in keeping balls from going through the hoop.

For Belmont, its stellar defense is being left unrewarded as its offense that has gone off the rails.

For the second consecutive game, Belmont was manhandled, on Friday by Woburn High School, 55-41; a score that does not indicate just how ineffective the Marauders’ scoring touch have become.

The offensive woes were evident by looking at the scorer’s sheet as Belmont could only hit 11 baskets in the game, a rate of less than three per quarter. In one stretch of the second half, Belmont went nearly nine minutes scoring only a single two-point basket.

In a repeat of its game against Arlington, the Marauders’ were run over in the critical third quarter. Woburn exploited Belmont’s tendency to attempt a majority of its shots close to the basket by intercepting forced passes into heavy defensive coverage or creating turnovers. In one sequence of plays, Belmont did not attempt a shot on five consecutive possessions as they turned the ball over attempting to funnel the ball under the basket.

After weathering a poor start in the first quarter and cutting a late second quarter Tanners lead (24-16) in half by half time (on two free throws each by freshman Jenny Call and senior Sophia Eschenbach-Smith), it appeared Belmont would put up a fight to keep its unbeaten home record intact when freshman point guard Carly Christofori hit a driving basket in the first few seconds of the second half to put Belmont behind by only a bucket at 24-22.

But in a little over five minutes, Woburn went on a 15-0 run as it clogged the passing lanes to punish Belmont’s attempts to get close to the basket. When Belmont did get into its defensive stance, Woburn would go over it with long jump shots as Woburn star senior forward Sam D’Angelo (18 points) hit four of the Tanners’ five three-point shots.

During the run, Woburn gambled on stealing Belmont passes, which they accomplished at a high rate, leading to several fast breaks and fouls. Woburn’s sophomore point guard Marissa Gattuso (19 points) made a pair of three-point plays by making the hoop while being fouled and hitting the extra shot.

A free throw from senior Elena Bragg (who for the fourth-straight game hit double digits in points with 13) stopped the bleeding with two-and-a-half minutes to play in the third. But the score was now 39-23, and the game was essentially done.

Belmont kept playing aggressive, scrappy defense throughout the remainder of the contest, but there was little to do, but listen to the loutish utterances of the Philistines, who traveled from Woburn.

Depending on the snow and rescheduling, the next game could be Tuesday against Lexington but that is far from certain.

Belmont Boys’ Basketball Back to Winning Ways After Woburn Win

Was Friday’s game against Woburn High the kairotic moment for Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball?

Maybe. The 69-51 win over the Tanners at Wenner Field House highlighted a team that didn’t panic while beset with a bevy of miscues and played to its strengths – quickness and power at the post – to dominate an opponent who came into the game tied for second in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division at 10-6.

The victory stemmed a two-game losing streak where Belmont fell to superior (undefeated Arlington) and inferior (a three win Reading squad) competition by being unable to make the big play down the stretch.

That wasn’t the case Friday as Belmont used a 19 to 10 third quarter to open up a tight game as All-Star senior center Adam Kleckner scored 9 of his game high 20 points in the eight minutes. 

Not that Belmont looked good coming out of the gate, falling behind 7-0 and 11-4 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, before cutting the lead to 13-10 at the half behind two three-point hoops by junior shooting guard Matt Kerans including a successful wild heave that beat the buzzer. 

The second quarter was much like the first; Belmont falling further behind early – 19-13 after three minutes after a three-point shot from junior point guard Brandon Moscat – before rallying with contributions from senior guard Ben Lazenby (8 of his 15 points in the second stanza) to tie the score at 28 at the half. 

The second half was set up for Kleckner who proceeded to score 7 points in the first two-and-half minutes while pulling down rebounds on both ends of the court to give Belmont a five-point cushion. Then the Marauders’ guard duo – who have played together for the past three season – took turns leading the way; Kerans making one of two after a steal before burying a three followed by Lazenby hitting a leaner than barking “Matt!” to his backcourt mate who swung the ball to the open point guard who sank a 15 foot jumper with the shot clock at 1 second. The lead was then 45-36 with a 90 seconds left in the quarter.

Helped by Woburn’s cold hand shooting from the outside, Belmont was able to take time off the clock before punishing the Tanners inside as Kleckner (9 points including 5 for 6 from the charity strip) and junior Justin Wagner (8 of 12 points in the fourth quarter) ruled under the basket.

The win ups Belmont’s record to 11-6.

Belmont’s game Monday against Wakefield is canceled for a second time and Tuesday’s game with Lexington remains hostage to the latest snow storm.

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Belmont Girls’ Basketball Push Unbeaten Woburn to Limit, 59-56

Photo: Belmont High School junior (#15) Irini Nikolaidis heading for the basket defended by Woburn High School senior Taylor Kane at a game in Woburn on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

There are no good losses.

But for Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart, the team’s 59-56 loss to undefeated Woburn High School on Friday, Jan. 9, did have a lot of positives her squad can build on.

“We’ll learn from [the game],” Hart said. “This is hardly a loss we’ll look back and shake our heads.”

After falling behind by 10 points at the start of the game and being down by as much as 16 points midway through the third quarter, Belmont (4-2 overall and in the Middlesex League) would outscore the high scoring Tanners 38-21 with a combination of a up-tempo offense and its trademark high-power defense that visibly tired the hosts.

Only the play by Tanner all-star senior Sam D’Angelo who put in 8 of her 18 points in the final eight minutes allowed Woburn (8-0, 6-0 in the league) to escape with the win in its most challenging game of the season.

Not that Belmont started the game looking like a team to challenge the table toppers. The Marauders was tentative facing an aggressive opponent, finally scoring with a strong move by senior center Linda Herlihy at the 3:37 in the first quarter to make the score 10-3.

“This reminded me of the Watertown game (an opening loss of the season); [the team] was so unselfish because they didn’t want to make a mistake,” said Hart.

But the damage was done as Belmont’s vaunted defense was being beaten by long outlet passes before either hitting open players driving to the basket or waiting to take outside shots.

“Our press was not the best but you have to give a lot of credit to Woburn. That’s a very good team,” said Hart.

Down 19-6 after the first quarter and 29-17 at the half, Belmont’s sloppy work on the offense side of the ball allowed the Tanners to run off to the 38-21 lead.

But for the final 11 minutes of the game, Belmont began its comeback, starting with two steals that led to a pair of foul shots from freshman point guard Carly Christofori (4 points) and a three-pointer from fellow frosh Jenny Call (10 points including a pair of threes) to brought the score to 45-34 at the start of the fourth quarter.

As in past games, the Marauders followed the lead of senior point guard Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (7 points and three assists), Herlihy (8 of her 18 tough inside-the-paint points in the fourth to go along with 5 rebounds) and junior shooting guard Irini Nikolaidis (12 points) to cut into the Tanner lead.

On defense, senior Samari Winklaar (5 points) began pushing around the exhausted Woburn players into mistakes. The 11-point margin quickly fell to six, 49-43, with 5 minutes remaining on Herlihy’s turnaround, bank shot.

“Sometimes you have to forget the score and play,” said Herlihy. “We just ran the floor and tired them out.”

A pair from Call including a long three kept Belmont close at 55-48 midway through the quarter before a Nikolaidis layup from a court long pass from Christofori, a pair of free throws from Herlihy and Nikolaidis and a pretty step-back three from Eschenbach-Smith reduced the lead to five before Christofori hit two from the charity stripe to whittle the Tanner’s lead down to a single possession.

But Belmont’s charge was a little too late in the game as time ran out.

“We need to stay close for the entire game with good teams. We seemed to be battling from 10 to 12 points behind for most of the game. But they never gave up. They know they are capable of coming back,” said Hart.

Despite Kerans’ Return, Boys’ Basketball Collapse in Woburn, 54-53

In a season-deflating collapse, Belmont High School Boys’ Basketball team failed to score in the final two-and-a-half minutes in its matchup with host Woburn High, allowing the Tanners to run off nine points, including a steal and basket in the final 23 seconds to founder to a 54-53 loss on Friday, Jan. 9.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t have a sound bite to give you,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s head coach after the game.

The loss send Belmont to a 5-3 record and 4-2 in the Middlesex League, two games behind undefeated Arlington (7-0, 6-0 in the league) and a game behind Woburn (5-4) which is 5-1 in the league .

The defeat spoiled the return of starting junior shooting guard Matt Kerans thought to be lost to the team until late January after he was injured in a win over Cathedral High School over the winter recess. Since losing Kerans in December – who with senior center Adam Kleckner are the Marauders’ top scorers – Belmont is 1-3.

It was with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter when Kerans entered the game, pairing him with his long-time backcourt partner, Ben Lazenby (7 points). While rusty in his passing, Kerans (9 points) hit his first shot, a long-distance three point basket – the first of three threes in the game – to give the Marauders a 18-14 lead a minute into the second quarter.

While the Marauders’ took the game to the Tanners, leading 15-10 after the first quarter and 26-20 at the half, the only consistent scoring threat for Belmont was Kleckner, who finished with 17 points and double digits in rebounds. In the four quarters, only junior forward Justin Wagner (8 points) and senior co-captain Tim Martin (5 points including a three) scored more than one basket in any one quarter while no other Belmont player scored in double figures.

Led by Kleckner’s scoring and Wagner’s defense – including two blocks and grabbing several rebounds – Belmont took its biggest lead with Martin’s three upping the Marauders’ lead to 10 at 37-27 with 2:48 left in the quarter.

But a three point shot by Deion Williams (who finished with 16 points) followed by a three from Jimmy McRae quickly cut the lead to five at the end of three (40-35). 

Despite running at Woburn, Belmont saw its lead shrivel to one at 43-42 with six minutes to play. But a Kleckner driving layup, a Kerans steal, a three point shot from Lazenby and then by Kerans (from more than 18 feet from the basket) and  finally a Wagner easy put-in after Kleckner dove and stripped the ball away from a Tanner player saw the Marauders lead grow to eight with 150 seconds left.

But that was enough time for Woburn to use the time to apply double teams up and down the court and win the ball as the game got a bit chippy with Wagner ripping out the ball from McRae sending Woburn senior Matt Catizone (8 points) to the court with a thump.

A two point jumper, another three from Williams, a Belmont turnover and a bucket by Woburn reduced the lead to a single point with 40 second remaining. Pressure on Belmont resulted in the turnover to the Tanners and guard Daniel Muscot (who scored 10 of his 12 points in the final stanza) buried the layup with 23 seconds to play.

A quick miss by Belmont forced the team to foul Woburn three times in the backcourt – Woburn had only collected four fouls that point in the game – wasting valuable seconds on the clock. Catizone missed the one-and-one free throw with less than six seconds to play but Lazenby’s shot from the top of the key at the buzzer hit high off the backboard.

“We need to play smarter and better in this league to win,” said Pritchard.