(West Newbury MA) Pentucket had two shots in the lane in the last thirty seconds but came up empty and undefeated Masconomet (14-0) survived, 39-38, on Monday night in Cape Ann League action.
Hannah Kiernan’s free throw with thirty-six seconds left proved to be the game winner.
The Sachems (12-4) went down by six (38-32) with three minutes left. However, tireless Kelsi McNamara (17 points) hit a runner in the lane, McKenna Kilian (17 points) made one of three free throw attempts, and Kelsi launched a game-tying three (38-38) with 1:06 left.
The momentum had clearly shifted to Pentucket. I thought that Masco might be in trouble because they hadn’t been in a tight game all season plus this was only their fifth game on the road.
The Chieftains’ Hannah Kiernan got into the lane, got fouled, and gave Masco the point that decided this one with thirty-six seconds left.
Trust me, that lone point came close to not holding up the rest of the way. First, McKenna Kilian misfired on a runner in the lane. Then, after a Hannah Kiernan traveling violation, the Sachems were able to get back in the lane again. This time it was Riley Holden’s chance but freshman Stephanie Mini blocked her shot with just a few seconds left. The Chieftains were then able to run out the clock without giving Pentucket any more opportunities.
The Sachems had won eleven straight since a December 27th, 66-40, loss to Masconomet.
Masco’s last defeat was on March 2nd (2013) to Billerica (64-42) in the Division 1 quarterfinals.
Meghan Collins had the unenviable task of guarding Kelsi McNamara most of the game. In almost every picture I took of Kelsi dribbling, there was not only Meghan but also one or two other Masco defenders ready to help. What that defense did was to keep Kelsi from driving and either scoring or getting fouled. Kelsi did, however, make the Chieftains pay by hitting shots from the outside.
I think that the key to the Masco win was their ability to keep Kelsi from getting another shot after she had tied the game from downtown with 1:06 left.
Pentucket had the lead or was tied into the fifth minutes of the second quarter. Then a layup and two free throws by Nicky Femino (12 points) put Masco in front, 16-13.
A Kelsi McNamara three, a fall-back jumper by Kelsi, and two McKenna Kilian free throws put the home team back in front 20-16 with 1:43 left in the second period. Pentucket led, 20-18, at the half.
I had a sense at halftime that Masco would pull away in the second half. They had been able to get to the basket but not finish as often as they should. Pentucket had shown only two scorers (McKenna Kilian & Kelsi McNamara) and if either cooled off matching points with Masco would be very tough.
The Chieftains moved ahead, 23-22, on a Nicky Femino long shot three minutes into the second half. That lead would be extended to 34-27 on a buzzer-beating three by Amy Fogarty early in the fourth quarter.
McKenna Kilian brought the Sachems within two (34-32) with a three and a floater in the lane with six minutes left.
Stephanie Mini put in a layup (nice pass from Hannah Kiernan) and Nicky Femino got to the hoop for two putting Masco on top, 38-32, with three minutes remaining.
Then it was Kelsi and McKenna combining to tie the score before Hannah Kiernan’s free throw gave Masco a one-point win.
Looking ahead, I suspect that Pentucket will continue to struggle to score points. I also suspect that every opponent they face will struggle against their defense. The Sachems give the opposition little breathing room. Do they have enough offense to defeat Division 2 teams in the tournament?
Division 1 Masco is legit. The two things about them that impressed me in this game were their ability to get the ball to the basket and their gusto getting after rebounds. In this game they had four second-chance baskets and nine scores on layups.
Masco will play five of their last six games away from home. Undefeated? The tournament at the end of the season at St. Mary’s could settle that especially if they get up against the powerhouse host team in it.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)