(West Newbury) Pentucket hit eight 3’s and scored the game’s last eleven points as they defeated Billerica, 59-39, in a nonleague contest on Wednesday night.
A little over a year ago Billerica, at their place, had a strong second half and routed the Sachems, 63-43.
But this time around undefeated Pentucket (6-0) made shots from long range (eight over the first three quarters) and shut out the Indians (4-1) over the last 4:25 of the game. That combo did in the Division One opponent from the Merrimack Valley League.
Pentucket took the lead for good midway through the first quarter (7-6) on a three by Kelsi McNamara (15 points). That lead would get to nine (17-8) before the Indians ran seven straight into the second quarter. Brittany Lomanno (10 points) had Billerica’s only three as the Indians moved to within two (17-15) 1 ½ minutes into the second quarter.
Pentucket would get that lead up to eight (29-21) as Coley Viselli (9 points) ended the half with a three and two free throws.
Kelsi McNamara dropped three 3’s in the first 2 ½ minutes of the second half to offset a strong third quarter by junior Shannon Hayes (eight points in the quarter). Pentucket led, 46-35, after three quarters.
The final quarter started out harmlessly enough – full court drive by Kayla Leverone, two free throws by Alex Moore, and two free throws by Danielle Nickerson. 48-39 with 4:25 left.
The rest of the way? All Pentucket. McKenna Kilian (13 points) sparked the Sachems. The speedy sophomore started things with a block of Brittany Lomanno’s layup attempt. Later she added a couple of full-speed, stop-on-a-dime jumpers, two free throws, and a last-second toss off the backboard.
Pentucket had four three’s in the first quarter, one in the second, and three in the third. Normal starter Alex Moore (8 points) came off the bench late in the first quarter and promptly drained two 3’s in thirty seconds.
Billerica coach Chris Doneski surprised me plenty by going to a zone defense after Pentucket had four 3’s in the first quarter. But it actually worked in the second quarter. The third quarter? Not so much! Blame Kelsi McNamara. The sophomore found three openings around the top of the key and connected on all of them.
Back to the man-to-man went the Indians. Playing that defense and facing full-court pressure all game long may have been the culprits in the Indians disastrous last 4 ½ minutes.
Tess Nogueira (12 points) had the best game I’ve seen her play. She faced a taller defender (Joslyn King – 6’1”) and was able to score points and get Joslyn (6 points) into foul trouble. Two memorable Tess moments were a flip-back as she went under the basket and a full-court drive in the last two minutes. On that drive I’m certain she was planning on giving the ball up but no one from Billerica stepped up to stop the senior and she kept on going.
It is hard not to be impressed with Division Three Pentucket being able to defeat a quality D1 opponent. Billerica was 17-4 last season. I saw them lose to D1 undefeated state champ Andover (with Nicole Boudreau) by a point at Andover. The Indians missed four free throws in the last 1 ½ minutes in that tough loss.
The pace of this game was certainly to the Sachems liking. They forced the ball away from Billerica’s primary ball-handlers much of the game and made passing difficult. Credit the Indians for being able to handle the pressure in the backcourt. The struggle was in the front court. Billerica had twenty-one turnovers (by my unofficial count) and missed a ton of rushed shots.
You win by twenty you probably will overlook your own team’s eighteen turnovers. Billerica’s athleticism forced that many and showed well in the one-on-one matchups when the pace was to their liking. However, Pentucket was able to speed things up most of the night and get enough openings to dominate from long range.
Billerica will next be hosting a very tough North Andover team at home on Friday night.
Pentucket will be hosting Cape Ann League opponent Newburyport also on Friday night.
ESPN Boston was in the house. So was Masco’s Bob Romeo.
The state championship banner has now found a spot on the gymnasium wall.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)