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Three-point shooting, fit Belardo help Griffs topple Marist

Photo by Dave Marino

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

A lingering injury can cripple a player’s confidence, put a limp in his swagger. After an 18-point effort in Canisius’ 67-57 win over Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center, once-hobbled Gaby Belardo’s swagger is back.

With Canisius leading by eight with 4:30 left in the first half, the junior guard hoisted a contested three-pointer with two seconds left on the shot clock, snapping the twine. On defense, Belardo caught a long rebound of a Devon Price miss, then dribbled full-speed up the floor before launching another trey from straight on. Swish again. Pumping his fists at his sides and releasing a yell, the jubilant Belardo looked like he was having fun for the first time all year. Marist would never come closer than eight points again.

After getting hurt in practice shortly after the UNLV game on Nov. 17, Belardo played a whopping 33 minutes against UB—a coaching move Parrotta later admitted regretting—and then missed three full games and played under 30 minutes in the ensuing six contests. When fully healthy, Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta prefers to have Belardo playing between 30 and 35 minutes, as the captain is the team’s best ball handler and one of the best distributors on the roster. After shaking off the cobwebs with 33 and 35 minute outings in conference losses to St. Peter’s and Loyola (MD), the Puerto Rican guard was feeling fine after tonight’s 35. 

“[Belardo] went to another specialist that provided some relief for him, so we’re going to continue that for the next two months to see if that really helps,” head coach Tom Parrotta commented on Belardo’s nagging lower back. “Yesterday, he practiced a little bit, but I thought it was more important to have him out there today.”

The return to a normal rotation was a boon for more than just Belardo, as junior Alshwan Hymes’ assignment shifted from dominating the ball to more of an off-the-ball shooting specialist. The duo combined for eight of the team’s season-high 11 three pointers, and the Griffs finished with more assists (17) than turnovers (14).

“We have to have another ball guard in there,” Parrotta said when asked why his team shared the ball better tonight. “[Belardo] is responsible for distributing the basketball, and when he’s not right, it forces Alshwan out of his role. And, if Belardo’s playing well, Harold [Washington]‘s playing well and Reggie [Groves]‘s playing well, it makes Alshwan’s job easier. He’s a guy that should be able to find open spots and make open shots—that’s what Alshwan does as well as anyone in the league.”

Before Belardo’s back-to-back treys, Hymes tallied 10 consecutive points for Canisius, hitting step-back jumpers and hand-in-his face threes—the solo run reminded Griffin fans of his explosion for a school-record nine three-pointers against Northwestern State last year.  He also wound up with 18 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting.

Parrotta also pointed to the contributions of big men Kevin Bleeker, who finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and two treys, and Chris Manhertz, who added 15 rebounds (eight offensive) in the win.

“I thought Bleeker gave us a nice lift, and I thought Chris did from an aggressive standpoint, [especially when] he’s posting up—he only had six points, but he controlled the glass in the second half, and that’s a good thing.”

The Griffins remain at home for a 2 p.m. Sunday tilt against St. Peter’s. Canisius fell to the Peacocks on the road in the team’s first meeting this season, 65-61.

Parrotta concluded: “When we share the ball and everybody is involved, I think we can be a pretty good team moving forward. It’s a long way to go though.”

TAGGED: alshwan hymes, canisius griffins, chris manhertz, college basketball, gaby belardo, kevin bleeker, marist red foxes, tom parrotta

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