After dispatching Winchester High, 56-38, on Tuesday night, Jan. 8 for its seventh win (against a single loss) of the season, Belmont High School Girls' Hoopsters are looking forward to matching up at the end of the week with the best of the best.
Head Coach Melissa Hart's team will head up Route 128 for a Friday night battle royal with undefeated Reading High School. That would be a Rocket team unbeaten since December ... of 2011.
Ranked number 2 in Eastern Massachusetts by the Boston Globe, the defending Div. 2 state champions (which went 25-0 last year) is led by senior superstar Olivia Healy, which ESPN Boston calls the best female basketball player in the state.
The 5'10" forward, who has already committed to play Division 1 basketball next year at the University of Richmond, scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Rockets past previously undefeated Lexington, 72-64, on Tuesday.
If Healy wasn't enough for the Marauders to handle, she is assisted by senior guard Morgan O'Brien who is heading to Assumption College next year.
"Every player will need to be on their game; no one can come with an off-game because Reading won't be giving us an opening," said Hart.
But before they could think about its first big test of the year, the Marauders welcomed the Sachems to the Wenner Field House and put out a workman's-like effort to come off the court with the win.
Belmont never trailed in the game in which its defense kept Winchester's leading player, senior guard Elise Testa, from becoming a factor as the Marauders dominated the boards, taking down 18 offensive and 17 defensive rebounds with senior co-captain forward Olivia Lyons grabbing 13 of the team's 35.
Belmont was consistent all night, scoring 13, 14, 15 and 14 points per quarter increasing its lead after each 8 minute period; 7 at the first, 10 at the half and 15 by the end of the third.
"I was hoping that we could have moved ahead by more so I could play some of the bench players but (Winchester Head Coach Jason Cacciapuoti) was smart how to attack us," said Hart.
For the second consecutive game, the Marauders spread the scoring around as nine players got on the scoreboard with senior co-captain guard Katie Leinbach leading the way with 15 points to go with her five assists, two steals and six rebounds.
Lyons scored 11 points hitting half her eight shots and making three-of-four free throws, giving her a sixth double-double in eight games.
Hart noted that senior co-captain Amari Bradshaw (6 pts) and junior guard Ashleigh Chinn (6 pts) hit three baskets from jumpers outside the paint while sophomore pair center Linda Herlihy (6 pts) and forward Elena Bragg (who plays and looks like teammate Lyons) had strong games under the basket.
"Herlihy is become a force out there. She's really coming along," said Hart.
While acknowledging the task before her team on Friday's visit to Reading, Hart believes that the team has a good chance to stay in the game for the entire 32 minutes.
"They're an athletic team and will press us so we need to be prepared," said Hart, saying that Reading is not a "huge" team but have good players in the 5'8" range.
"We have to be smart and take care of the ball and limit what Healy does," said Hart.