Belnavis ends career with 27 point effort
by Steev Riccardo
FITCHBURG – The Bartlett Indians season may have ended this past Thursday night, but not before the green and white played one of their best games of the year in an intense, heated contest in which they fell to Central Mass powerhouse St. Bernard’s 75-66 in front of a packed house.
The Indians and their fans knew they would have a huge task in hand against one of the best teams in Central Mass, but coach Tony Paranto and his staff came up with a superb game plan that had upset written all over it for almost three quarters.
Senior co-captain Matt Huberdault hit a 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock and the Indians held a 15-14 advantage at the end of the opening quarter. His shot ignited the large Bartlett contingency that made the 45 minute trek from Webster.
Huberdault hit a couple more 3-pointers and eighth grader Anthony Grzembski also connected from long range, and the Indians found themselves up 35-32 at the break in an excellent action-filled half of high school basketball.
Both teams went back and forth for the first four minutes of the third quarter until St. Bernard’s senior star John Crawley connected for a three pointer at the 4:34 mark for his 1000th career point and a 46-43 lead. The hometown crowd went crazy and the momentum seemed to shift and the Bernardians never trailed in the game again.
Indians senior co-captain Akeem Belnavis, playing in his last quarter as an Indian, scored 12 of his team’s last 16 points but it wasn’t enough to get back in the game.
Belnavis, who had one of his best games of the season, finished with 27 points, while junior Alex Givins-Perry finished with 10 points and sophomore Jacob Mailloux had nine.
“I thought we were prepared and we executed the game plan to its utmost,” said Paranto. “They had that little spurt to start the second half and we just didn’t have the matching power, obviously the Crawley kid is a very good player, he took the game over and got them the lead, a lead they didn’t relinquish.”
“Hopefully the underclassmen know now what it takes to get to the next level. St. Bernard’s are the defending district champions, they have a couple of state titles, this is what it is. We came out on the losing end, but I think we gained something out of this game for both the seniors and the underclassmen. We never quit the program and we really work hard.”
Paranto also praised the effort of his two senior co-captains, who ended their careers as Indians. “Akeem and (Matt) Huberdault, they had great careers for us, they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Indians finished a very respectable 14-8 record and have a great young nucleus to build on with Givins-Perry, Evan Anderson, Mailloux, Neil Flanigan, and Grzembski all returning. That alone should make for some very interesting basketball in these parts next season and beyond.