The Belmont girls’ basketball team certainly left a footprint in Division 2, earning the top seed in last year’s D2 North tournament before being eliminated with a 49-48 semifinal loss to state finalist Arlington Catholic.
But now, their focus is qualifying for the Division 1 tournament. As part of the MIAA’s 2017-2021 realignment, Belmont was elevated to D1 with an enrollment of 672 girls.
With an experienced roster — freshman Maiya Bergdorf is the only underclassman — the Marauders are embracing the challenge of playing the best teams in the state.
Ranked seventh in this week’s Globe Top 20, Belmont (6-1) has a talented group of seniors headlined by captains Carly Christofori and Jenny Call , the program’s career leader in 3-pointers made.
The Marauders were dealt their lone loss by top-ranked Newton South, 44-35, in the Garden City Classic. That matchup, along another nonleague matchup against Stoughton, has given Belmont a sense of what it will take to advance in the postseason.
“It’s a good indication of what we’ll have to do to do well in the tournament,” said the coach.
Christofori added that the string of early exits in the postseason have fueled the team’s motivation this winter.
In a 59-21 Middlesex League win over Winchester on Tuesday night, the 5-foot-4 Christofori (8.7 points per game) displayed her ability to create easy points in transition, often as a result of her quick hands on defense. But she also acknowledged that slow starts in matchups against Stoneham and Woburn are concerning.
“We can’t take certain teams for granted. We have to play hard for every game,” she said. “We’ve definitely learned that we have to step up right away instead of waiting until the third or fourth quarter to pick it up.”
To that end, the 14-year-old Bergdorf (8.9 points, 4.7 rebounds per game) is quickly emerging as a pivotal piece for the Marauders.
“Whenever Maiya goes in, there’s always a new sense of energy in everyone else,” said Christofori.
Before the season, Hart did not expect that Maiya would compete for a roster spot. But she made an impression early.
“I knew she was a pretty good player coming in, but just right in the first few days I saw she has a great skill set, she has great footwork, she’s already built like a college basketball player,” said the coach. “And she’s only 14.”
After the Belmont fell behind by 7 points in the second half against Woburn, it was Bergdorf who stepped forward in a 43-38 victory. She flashed her versatility, draining a pair of second-half treys and showed her composure by calmly sinking a pair of clinching free throws.
Bergdorf said she loves playing on the perimeter and taking 3-pointers.
But her true value for a deep Marauder squad is on the defensive end. Hart puts an emphasis on defense and having a player with the physicality of Bergdorf in the paint will pay dividends in the Division 1 tourney. When teamed with 6-foot-3 Jess Giorgio , the tandem will pose matchup issues for foes.
As the team’s only underclassman, Maiya didn’t know what to expect in terms of her role and playing time. But as Hart has encouraged her to embrace her role more as a presence in the paint, Bergdorf said that she recognizes the impact she can have by doing the little things.
“I’ve learned that I have to go to the ball, rebound a bunch, and box out, so we don’t have to run in practice,” she said.
Hart feels about her team’s progress, noting that they are playing with much more confidence and than in recent years.
“[But] I always feel like I’m still working toward getting us to where we can go,” said Hart.
As sophomores last season at Pope John in Everett, Katty and Korine Haidul teamed up for 30-plus points and 20 rebounds per game.
Seeking a more competitive environment, the twins from Wakefield transferred to Matignon before the start of the school year. Their numbers on the court are not as gaudy as last season. But the pair agree that they are thriving in their new environment.
Matignon coach Joe DiSarcina said the Haiduls have added a new dynamic to a 5-0 squad that returned seven varsity players, including senior captain Lauren Lividoti , senior guard Abby McClellan , junior captain Francesca Farrell and talented sophomore Emma Found .
“The twins have brought depth,” he said. “They’re two additional players who have exceptional ability on the basketball court and have tremendous basketball intellect.”
At 5-feet-10, Katty (13 points, 12 rebounds per game) has given Matignon a much-needed presence in the paint while also offering the versatility to play out on the peritmer. The 5-foot-7 Korine (12 points, 7 assists per game), he said, fits perfectly into the team’s uptemp attack because of her quickness and basketball IQ.
The twins decided that they wanted to transfer to another school this past summer. After lengthy discussions with their family, they chose Matignon.
Though the adjustment to new peers at a new school was daunting at first. But the Haidels said that they feel much more comfortable now in large part because they have been able to bond with the other athletes at school, namely their teammates.
“Coming to Matignon and playing basketball here at Matignon just kind of shows that everyone on the team shares a common ground and love and passion for the sport,” said Katty.
Players of the Week
Veronica Burton, Newton South —The senior netted 23 points in a 53-35 Dual County League win over Cambridge to pass Katrina Antonelli (1,486 points) as the program’s career scoring leader.
Meg Hill, Mansfield — The 6-foot-3 senior center was dominant in a 52-31 Hockomock League win over Attleboro, recording 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.
Annabelle Larnard, Fontbonne — In leading the ninth-ranked Ducks to a 7-0 start, the senior point guard poured in a season-high 28 points and added 10 rebounds in a 75-39 win over Notre Dame Academy.
Maggie McCarthy, Medfield — The Harvard-bound guard produced a pair of dominant performances for the 10th-ranked Warriors with triple-doubles against Lincoln-Sudbury (24 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 steals) and Norton (16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals).
Valentina Pepic, Revere — The 6-foot-2 senior forward netted her 1,000th career point in a 62-48 win over Everett, totalling 25 points and 16 rebounds.
Games to Watch
■ Friday, O’Bryant at Fenway, 5 p.m. — The defending Division 4 North champions, and City League runnerup, host O’Bryant.
■ Friday, Belmont at Reading, 6 p.m. — After its dominant win over Winchester on Tuesday night, the Marauders hit the road for Reading.
■ Friday, Newton South at Lincoln Sudbury, 7 p.m. — The top-ranked Lions are yielding 30.8 points per game. It all starts on the defensive end for Veronica Burton and Co.
■ Friday, Coyle & Cassidy at Bishop Feehan, 6:30 p.m. — Feehan swept the season series last winter, 69-51 and 56-48. This season, fifth-ranked C&C is off to a 7-1 start. Feehan sits at 4-2.Correspondent Greg Levinsky also contributed to this story.