Belmont Hill’s Jordan Athletic Center felt more like a luau than a Boys’ Varsity Basketball (BVB) game Friday night, when over 150 of the rival school’s rowdy student fans showed up in beach attire hungry to avenge their loss to Boys’ Varsity Football in October. Before the game commenced at 7 p.m., Belmont Hill attempted to intimidate the Knights with loud chants, and BVB supporters, filling the other half of the bleachers with about 50 parents and students, fought back—a theme throughout the evening’s showdown—with cheers of their own.
“The overall atmosphere of the game was something I’ve never seen in an ISL basketball game before,” BVB Co-Captain Justin Albee ’19 said. Having played basketball and football at the school for four years, however, Justin has become accustomed to the athletic competition.
“The aggressive play is like that in every sport we play Belmont Hill in,” Justin said.
From the moment the whistle blew, tensions were high between the rivals as a Belmont Hill forward pushed Justin over. With 6:18 left in the first half and Belmont Hill up 17–11, Justin clapped back by moving in with a fair block on a new shot. As Belmont Hill yelled, “Let’s go, Belmont,” Chloe Boudreau ’19 energized the BVB’s fan section, hollering, “Let’s go, Knights!”
Armeen Golshan ’19 attended the game and said the Knights fought hard from the first jump ball.
“The atmosphere was incredible on both sides,” he said, adding, “The BB&N U-Knighted spirit felt really strong.”
BVB Team Manager Jacob Tuck ’19, who notes players’ statistics during games, said he had trouble concentrating with all the noise.
“The fan presence was pretty rambunctious,” he said.
The action continued when Ty Harding ’22 regained possession of two missed free throws, and Belmont Hill tried to trip him. With the Knights trailing 22–13, Julius Nagin ’20 whipped a pass to Justin, who tossed the ball to Ty. Catching it, Ty spun the ball behind his back and tossed it upward for a layup. Fans watched in suspense as the ball danced around the rim before dropping through the net. BVB onlookers erupted with screams as the scoreboard changed to 22–15.
When BVB called a timeout with 2:49 to play before halftime, “Mr. Brightside” started flowing through portable speakers, and the Belmont Hill fan section jumped up and down in synch. To avoid giving the home team any satisfaction, Knights’ supporters had to resist any urges to join in.
“We all wanted to sing along but felt like we shouldn’t out of respect for our team,” Kathryn Goebel ’19 said. “It was a still a bop, though.”
Once the game resumed, a Belmont Hill forward shot the ball and fell to the floor, but not before bolstering his team’s lead to 26–17. As the home team began to drive down the court again, one of its players ran straight into Anthony LaMonica ’19, causing both athletes to tumble and returning the ball to the Knights. With seconds left on the clock, Tyler Martin ’22 attempted a pass to Ty, which Belmont Hill swiftly stole.
At half time, the luau transformed into a campground when the home crowd sat down with their phone flashlights and swayed together as they belted out “Old Country Road.” Meanwhile, Anthony said Head Coach Nick Papas’ main message at halftime was to come back out and keep up their effort.
“At that point in the game, it’s playing for pride,” Anthony said.
Belmont Hill clapped as the teams stepped back onto the court, and BVB fans answered with cheers like, “Yeah, Tony!” echoing through the gym.
Like in the first half, the competition remained intense, with neither school dominating at any moment. Only 15 seconds in, Anthony intercepted the ball and scored as Belmont Hill’s coach yelled in anger. Justin secured a free throw for the Knights, with his second attempt circling the rim and teetering out of the basket. Julius also earned two free throw tries, but both hit the rim and narrowly missed.
The back-and-forth between the two teams intensified as Belmont Hill scored on a few of their possessions. Julius responded by pushing through the defense for a layup, bringing the game to 35–22 with Belmont Hill still on top. Then Anthony hit two consecutive shots for BVB, which hyped up the Knights fans and drove them to mock Belmont Hill’s signature celebratory jazz hands.
But Belmont Hill countered, landing multiple baskets from well behind the three-point arc and widening their lead to 44–29. Fighting back, Co-Captain Jaylen Smith ’19 knocked the ball off the top of a Belmont Hill player’s hand, leading Anthony to score from the far corner of the court and Knights supporters to spring to their feet. With about eight minutes left, Justin sustained another illegal block and made both of his free throws.
At five minutes remaining, however, the score was 58–41 with a chance for victory slipping away. Players’ faces were falling, and when Ethan Voligny ’19 subbed in for Anthony, BVB fans generated an uproar, trying to keep hope alive.
Belmont Hill began chanting, “We’re winning, you’re losing,” as the clock wound down and home team stomping shook the gym.
Laila Shadid ’19 was struck by how unsportsmanlike the hosts were once firmly ahead.
“They were chanting, ‘Warm the bus,’ gloating at a time when BB&N was mourning,” Laila said. “I was impressed by our players’ ability to maintain their composure in the face of a loss.”
With a final score of 72–49, Belmont Hill fans charged the court and danced in a huge circle to salute their victory. They screamed and jumped and tossed floaties in the air as BVB Knights players shook their opponents’ hands and held their heads high.
Watching the home fans, Chloe exited the bleachers with a final cheeky message: “Remember the football game.”
The next morning, the Knights hit the road again and rallied to top Portsmouth Abbey on with a 47–41 a win that Coach Papas said exemplified the team’s resilience.
“In all three losses that we have endured [this season], we have responded with a victory the very next game, which shows the true character of our squad,” he said, praising the senior leadership in particular. “I’m extremely proud of the type of team we have become.”
At the time this paper went to press, BVB’s record was 6–3 overall and 2–2 in what Coach Papas called “the highly competitive ISL.” Tomorrow they travel to play Roxbury Latin at 7 p.m., and they will be home Saturday to take on St. Andrews at 2 p.m.