(West Newbury) Highly touted Joe Mussachia looked like just your average Joe from where I was sitting until late in the game when he hustled after a bad pass, got fouled, and nailed both free throws. Those free throws gave Manchester-Essex (10-4) the cushion they needed to defeat Pentucket (8-5), 69-63, on Monday night in entertaining Cape Ann League play.
Joe (12 points) came in with a 25 points per game average but the combination of John Modlish and Will Angelini either denied him the ball or forced him into turnovers for most of the night. Joe had only six points through three quarters.
The Hornets got off to a horrible start trailing 9-0 while having more turnovers (7) than shot attempts (4). They also got a steady earful of tough love from Coach Duane Sigsbury.
Turns out that ME has plenty of other scorers – Sean Nally (21 points), Chris Bishop (15 points), and Jason Stasiak (11 points). They sure needed them against the Sachems.
Pentucket was led by Corey McNamara (20 points) and Will Angelini (16 points).
The special coverage on Joe Mussachia left openings for the Hornets’ other shooters. That nine-point deficit had shrunk to, 31-29, by halftime.
Pentucket showed solid offense throughout the game because: (1) they ran organized offense and used their size advantages to lose their defenders on screens and cuts to get open looks and (2) Will Angelini (16 points) has a turnaround shot that even a tall defender like Joe Mussachia never came close to blocking.
Will would later foul out with 1:45 left and trust me that hurt the Sachems on both ends of the court thereafter.
The Hornets finally took the lead early in the third quarter on a head-scratching sequence all involving Sean Nally (5-10 junior). On the first possession he missed two free throws. The next possession he hits a 3 from the left hand corner. The next possession he nails a 3 from the right hand corner and gets fouled and makes that free throw. Who can predict shooting??
Anyhow, that little collection of offense put Manchester ahead 38-35 with six minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The lead would expand to 53-43 as Adam Jackson, Chris Bishop, and Jason Stasiak strung together seven straight points.
Credit the Sachems, led by Corey McNamara they went on a 12-2 run into the final quarter and evened things at 55-55. Corey hit a couple of 3’s during the rally.
Parker Kelly’s two free throws tied the game again at 57 with 6:15 to go. The next points registered were a three by Chris Bishop with 5 ½ left. The Hornets would never trail again although Pentucket came painfully close.
A rebound conversion by Parker shortened the Sachem deficit to 65-63 with fifty-six seconds left. Sean Nally got called for an offensive foul but, with a chance to tie, John Modlish’s jumper rimmed out.
ME tried to hold onto the ball but a dangerous pass bounced around near midcourt. Both John Modlish and Joe Mussachia went after it hard but the foul was called on John with twenty-one seconds left. If the foul goes the other way, John is shooting free throws for a tie. A steal there and Pentucket was off to the races for a tying basket or free throws. Needless to say, the Pentucket partisans weren’t thrilled with the call.
Joe made the two free throws and ME had the win.
Alex Porter (8 points) was back with Manchester-Essex after missing a number of games with an injury.
One of the neat matchups to watch was Chris Bishop covering Corey McNamara. Pentucket’s motion offense had Chris fighting over and under screens to stay with Corey.
Joe has signed to attend Division 3 powerhouse Amherst.
Pentucket was 8-for-8 from the foul line.
ME shot over 50% (25-for-49) from the floor. Included in that shooting was 6-for-11 from 3-point territory.
There are numerous lefties in the Hornet starting lineup.
Both these teams should make the MIAA tournament. Manchester-Essex should do very well in Division 4 especially if Joe becomes not your average Joe.
(I keep my own stats. I take my own pictures and create my own captions. I also draw my own conclusions. Any mistakes are unintentional.)