(Byfield) Who knows what goes on in a timeout? In a quiet gym you might catch a word or two but certainly not in an MIAA Division 3 North semi-final game held at Triton with an overflow crowd and two student cheering sections trying to outdo each other.
Newburyport called the timeout I’m referencing here after Pentucket had scored six straight points and taken a 17-13 lead with 5:04 left in the second quarter.
I don’t know what Clipper coach Tom L’Italien said, and maybe it wasn’t profound, but his team came out and totally dominated Pentucket for the rest of the half. The domination (eighteen unanswered points) was so significant that it put the Sachems in a hole they could never get out of thereafter.
Newburyport (15-7) went on to win, 53-39, but this game was decided in the last five minutes of the second quarter as the Clippers went from down four (17-13) to up by fourteen (31-17) at the half.
The victory sends Newburyport to Division 3 North finals against Watertown on Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
The secret to success for Newburyport against Pentucket was turning up layups all night long. Whether it was on a fast break or on dribble penetration the Clippers traveled the inside, high-percentage road getting seventeen layups in the twenty-two baskets they accumulated.
In the game-winning, eighteen point run, Newburyport had six layups, and an in-the-lane floater and a three by Matt Leavitt.
What was Pentucket (13-10) doing while this was going on? Missing nine shots, including five 3’s and committing two turnovers.
Junior Brett Fontaine was huge for Newburyport with 21 points and a willingness to take the ball to the basket in traffic. He took a whack in the third quarter and missed three minutes but was back in the final quarter to score the Clippers first four points on drives to the hoop.
Chris Jayne chased Corey McNamara around for the entire game. That meant fighting through the numerous screens the Sachems set for their long-range shooter. Corey managed to get off seventeen shots but only made two of them. He was a very surprising 1-for-14 from long range.
Without Corey’s normal 17+ points, the Sachems needed points from elsewhere and on this night no one filled that void. Will Angelini and John Modlish led Pentucket’s scorers with just eight points apiece.
Drew Carter (10 points) and Chris Jayne (9 points) were the other leading scorers for Newburyport.
The Clippers led throughout the first quarter before two free throws by John Modlish, a jumper by Will Angelini, and a layup by Mike Doud in the second quarter gave Pentucket the lead (17-13) and necessitated the Clipper timeout which was followed by the eighteen point Newburyport run.
Pentucket trailed 39-27 after three quarters. In the 4th, a John Modlish layup and a Serge Smaila three put the Sachems within nine (41-32) with 6:40 to go but layups by Brett Fontaine and Eric Meyer restored the Clipper’s double-digit advantage and they held it the rest of the way.
Both schools had good student turnouts and Triton is set up nicely to accommodate student sections with space in between them. I’m not sure why chanting obscenities is tolerated by schools. I wonder if that sort of thing will be “fixed” by the time Saturday’s Tsongas Center game is held.
During halftime the adults gave the student sections lessons in how to cheer.
This will be Newburyport’s first divisional final game since 2000. If Pentucket had won it would have been the first time they had ever been to the division finals.
The Clippers will have to deal with Marco Coppola and his 26.4 points per game average on Saturday when they face Watertown. I saw Marco’s freshman sister Gabby play against Pentucket.
(I accumulate my own stats and take my own pictures. I also draw my own conclusions. The errors along the way are unintentional.)