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Basketball: Boys' Balance Throws Off Watertown; Girls' Stutter Step Against Raiders

The winter sports season at Belmont High School got underway over the past couple of days with the school's two basketball teams were under the spot light Friday in their season openers.

Belmont Boys' balanced attack push back Watertown

Five Marauders hit double figures scoring and a dominate performance on the boards from junior center Adam Kleckner led Belmont to a convincing 80-59 victory over neighbors Watertown High School at Friday night's opener in Belmont High's Wenner Field House.

"We had a lot of players committed to improving in the off-season so they're bigger and stronger and things went our way against a very good team tonight," Belmont's Head Coach Adam Pritchard told Belmont Patch after the game Dec. 13. 

The game was played in two parts; when Kleckner (16 points, 14 from inside the paint) was in the game and when he was sitting on the pine. The underclassman dominated both boards – grabbing more than 10 rebounds for a double-double – as well as being the favorite target for Marauders' guards slashing in the lane. 

"If he can stay out of foul trouble he's going to be a super player in this league," said Pritchard of Kleckner. "He rebounded excellent and has a great touch around the basket."

Using a three-guard system, Belmont ran the break which allowed junior Ben Lazenby (13 points), sophomore Matt Kerans (a team leading 19 points with six coming beyond the 3-point line) and senior Keith Burns (8 points) to score from the inside or on pull-up shots. 

"I think we have a fast group who all can handle the ball. It's not like we're worried if one is being pressured. They all are comfortable at the point and are unselfish," said Pritchard. 

Belmont got out to a 20-12 lead (after trailing 4-2 in the first two minutes) in the first quarter in a tightly called game only to see Kleckner quickly pickup his third foul and Watertown began hitting one of their multiple three pointers attempts. 

"Watertown got too many good looks and they could have easily been up at the half," said Pritchard.

In fact, Watertown, led by senior center TJ Hairston's (17 points) rebounding and sensational sophomore guard Brendan Hoban (with a game-high 22 points with five 3's), the Raiders came back to tie the score at 28 with 1:29 left in the half on senior captain's Kevin DiPietrantonio bucket and free-throw after the foul.

But two free throws and a layup bucket with no time on the clock by Lazenby gave Belmont a 33-28 lead at the half. 

The first quarter also saw the introduction of Belmont's only freshman varsity member, the smooth-playing guard Jalyn Hinton whose lanky frame allowed him to drive to the hoop a half-step in front of defenders. The frosh ended the night with 10 points along with demonstrating some defensive skills. 

"He's talented. He's also a great kid and unselfish. He's one of several players who can come off the bench and we don't lose a step on the court," said Pritchard. 

Belmont got off to a hot start in the second half as Kleckner hit two layups in between senior forward captain Aaron Croce's (13 points including 10 in the fourth) buzzer beating shot to build the lead up to 41-32.

While Watertown got within three at 45-42 (on another Hoban three) with 2:17 left in the third, a Croce free-throw and a Kerans leaner, two free throws by Kleckner and a beautiful assist from Burns to Kerans gave the Marauders' a ten point lead (52-42) enter the fourth.

Belmont went on a 16-9 spurt in the first three minutes of the final quarter including Kerans three (68-51) that was the dagger in Watertown's back.

"We did well on defense but we have a ways to go. Communications need to get better but we did a great job rebounding after the shots," said Pritchard. 

Girls' youth tough to match Watertown's depth

After losing three seniors who are now playing college basketball this winter, it was going to be both a rebuilding year and one where it could take time for the on-court leadership to take hold for Belmont High School Girls' Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart's team.

"Part of this year is just figuring out what we have. We have new combinations on the court and it's a learning curve," Hart told Belmont Patch after coming back to Belmont from the Marauders' 48-27 loss to Watertown High School at the host's gym on Friday, Dec. 13.

"Watertown's a great team this year," said Hart, as the Raiders' Gabby Copolla led the team with 10 points and 4 assists.

Belmont was led by freshman Kayla Kaloostian who dropped in a three and four free throws for 7 points. "I usually don't start freshmen but she earned her way on the team," said Hart. 

Also earning praise was returning starters Sophia Eisenbach-Smith (6 free throws) and Ashley Chinn (two baskets and a free throw) and new comers Renna Nikolaidis ("She's our best defender") and Sara Stewart (three points)

"We had some of the young kids played and that gave them the taste of higher-level competition and respond pretty well with it," said Hart. "They have good energy and doing good things," she said.


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