It was worth the wait.
Five years since the last time they hosted and won a tournament game, the 7th-ranked Belmont High School Girls' Basketball team opened their Division 2 North sectional playoff run with a convincing 69-31 victory over Charlestown High School Tuesday, Feb. 26, at a packed Wenner Field House.
Belmont will travel to the heart of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood to take on the number-four seed Boston Latin Academy Dragons (14-5) Friday night, March 1, at 7 p.m.
"I was expecting that we might have an edge with ball control but I just think our girls were ready for this game and they did it on the court," said Head Coach Melissa Hart.
A dozen players scored a season high 69 points as Belmont poured in the first eight points of the game – senior captain Katie Leinbach scored in the first two seconds after the tip off – in the opening 90 seconds and was never seriously challenged.
Belmont's captains Leinbach (19 points and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line), guard Amari Bradshaw (7 points all in the first quarter including a three) and forward Olivia Lyons (18 points and in double digits on rebounds) led the charge as the Marauders finished the first eight minutes up 25-7 and went into the half up by 25, 40-15.
Fellow starters junior guard Ashleigh Chinn and senior forward Kate Zolner contributed with four and five points respectively while playing stellar defense.
For the second game running, Belmont relied on a suffocating defense – putting out three girls on the court at 5'11" – to prevent the Townies from having many open shots at the basket.
"It's fair to say that we are playing the best defense of the year at the end of the season. That's what we depend on," said Hart.
"What can you say about [Bradshaw] but that she kept their best player out of her game," said
Inside, the Marauders continued their late season block-shot clinic led by Lyons under the boards.
By the start of the second half, Hart was freely substituting players, allowing many role players several minutes on the court to the thrill of a large student section up in the higher tiers of the Field House.
The loudest cheer of the night came when fan favorite, senior Katlyn Noonan – who also sang the "National Anthem" before the game – poured in a pair of buckets in the fourth quarter.