(West Newbury) The Pentucket girls struggled mightily in the first half but returned to last year’s form in the second half as they defeated North Reading, 57-35, in Cape Ann League action on Tuesday night.
The “first half Sachems” could well have been thrown off by the festivities before the game.
The 2011-12 Division 3 state championship banner was unveiled and the thirteen team members from that 23-4 squad were reunited one last time before an adoring home crowd.
This was my first look at the team since the March 17th win over Sabis (55-32) at the DCU Center in Worcester as they captured the D3 title. Leading the way for Pentucket on that memorable afternoon were Sarah Higgins with 22 points and Kelsi McNamara with three long ones.
You know that the bar has been set pretty high for a team when they lead by three (20-17) at halftime and you describe them as, “struggling.”
But the 2012-13 Sachems (2-0) were struggling. There wasn’t a shot near or far that they could make consistently. And there were plenty of turnovers.
In the second half, a crucial ingredient in years of success returned……….shooting, and when that happened in the third quarter, the 2012-13 team started giving a great impression of the championship team of the previous season.
North Reading (0-2) actually got within two points (21-19) a minute into the second half but then the Pentucket scorers started hitting shots from everywhere, especially long range.
With shots falling, the Sachem defense could setup and pressure North Reading into a pace that created turnovers and rushed shots.
The visiting Hornets would make just one basket (Tarah Reilly) over the next six minutes while the Sachems put up twenty-one points and blew this one wide open, 42-21, with a minute left in the third quarter.
Two treys by Alex Moore and one each from Coley Viselli and Kelsi McNamara highlighted the surge. The Sachems also added 7-of-8 free throws and a floater in the lane from McKenna Kilian.
That burst of positive production separated the two teams and North Reading was unable to get within double-figures of the Sachems the rest of the way.
Not only was the championship banner unveiled but the home fans also got a look at seven new players including five freshmen.
Sophomores McKenna Kilian (14) and Kelsi McNamara (13) paced Pentucket. Senior Alex Moore added eleven points. The Sachems next game is Friday night at Triton.
Freshman Carly Swartz (11) led the Hornets. Carly scored all eleven in a first half in which North Reading made things very interesting for Pentucket. 6-5 freshman Jessica Lezon was a defensive presence for NR.
The Hornets will look for their first win at Masconomet on Friday night.
Quietly in the background during the pre-game celebrations was Pentucket coach John McNamara. His 136-18 record at Pentucket, and counting, is truly remarkable.
A look ahead at the Pentucket schedule has them starting off with Division 1 Billerica in January in a non-league game. Last season I saw Billerica nearly defeat Nicole Boudreau and the Andover Golden Eagles at Andover. Their key players were underclassmen. The Pentucket/Billerica contest is at Pentucket and should be special.
(The pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)