BURLINGTON — In a game filled with momentum-shifting runs, it was visiting Belmont that had the final, decisive spurt in Tuesday’s Middlesex League showdown against Burlington.
With Belmont trailing by six points and just 2:30 left, guards Mac Annus and Tim Minicozzi provided one final push, spearheading a decisive 17-2 closing run that helped the 18th-ranked Marauders earn a 70-61 comeback win over Burlington.
Annus and Minicozzi combined for 13 points during the stretch, highlighted by Minicozzi’s left-wing 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, which put Belmont ahead for good. Annus sealed the comeback with six straight free throws as Belmont (15-4, 13-2 ML Liberty) clinched the de facto title as the top team in the Middlesex League.
“It was a good game and a fun atmosphere back and forth,” Minicozzi said. “But we just played hard and played good defense and were able to score enough to take the lead. It was fun.”
Annus, who finished with 16 points to close to 10 shy of 1,000 for his career, converted a pair of driving layups to tie the game at 59, before Minicozzi (13 points, 8 rebounds) stepped into his 3 and swished the net to make it 62-59.
The game featured peaks and valleys for both sides. Burlington scored the first eight points of the game and led 12-10 after one quarter. But Belmont dominated the second frame, outscoring the Red Devils, 25-16. Senior Preston Jackson-Stephens (16 points, 7 rebounds) netted a game-high nine first-half points to help the Marauders lead 35-28 at the break.
Burlington (15-4, 12-3 ML Freedom) replicated how it opened the game to start the third quarter. Sophomore Aidan Olivier (20 points, 7 rebounds) scored five straight points and senior Kyle Inglis (19 points) attacked the cup for four layups to help Burlington go on a 17-2 run and lead 44-37.
The fourth quarter featured five lead changes. After Tyler Williams and Olivier canned 3s to put Burlington ahead, Belmont answered with its final run to silence the host crowd.
Both teams will be high seeds in the upcoming Division 2 North tournament, and Belmont coach Adam Pritchard believes Tuesday’s close game with a tournament-like feel can be valuable come postseason time.
“We’re used to playing from behind so I guess we have that experience in making comebacks,” Pritchard said. “We do have a little bit of faith and resilience to believe it’s not over. Both teams can call upon the good and the bad.”
Matt Doherty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.