(West Newbury MA) Both teams were aggressive and neither team backed down.
The result? A whistle fest.
Pentucket (7-1) took the lead for good midway through the third quarter and survived non-league Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), 57-50, on Saturday night.
The visitors were within two points (51-49) with 1:17 left but the Sachems (7-1) dominated the rest of the way. A beautiful interior pass by freshman Abby Dube set up teammate Mackenzie Currie for a layup, boosting the lead back to four. After a NDA free throw (Ava Orlando), senior Angelina Yacubacci (22 points) surrounded a Cougar turnover with foul-producing drives. Angelina sank all four freebies and the defending D2 champs had a victory.
“It was a good win,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara afterwards, “but we’ve got some things to work on. Our defense needed to get better. We’re fouling too much.”
“We did not do a good job of containing the drive,” explained Notre Dame coach Nicole Orlando.
Pentucket shot thirty-five free throws and the Cougars twenty-six.
There was hardly a possession that didn’t earn a whistle for something, because the teams also combined for thirty-five turnovers to go along with all the fouls!
The teams were tied at 8-8 with a minute left in the first quarter. At this point Pentucket put a 13-2 run together that stretched into the second quarter. Their 21-10 lead threatened to take the suspense out of the final outcome. Five different Sachems contributed points as their dangerous pressure defense kicked in. Hannah Lambert had a three in the collection of Pentucket points.
Some teams fall apart when the Sachems put a run of points together……..NDA wasn’t one of them. The excessive fouling started to hurt the home team. The Cougars went to the foul line seven times and made six of them. With Pentucket cooled down, their big lead vanished and NDA tightened things to 23-22 in the closing seconds.
At this point, Angelina Yacubacci fired the beyond half-court buzzer beater that seldom goes in……..but this time it did. Pentucket had a four-point lead (26-22) at halftime.
Notre Dame (5-2) was able to take the lead in the first two minutes of the second half. A rebound basket by Ava Foley and a layup off a Pentucket turnover put NDA in front, 29-26.
The defending champs in trouble? Not for long.
The Sachems headed toward the basket on almost every possession thereafter and when they didn’t score, they did get free throws. Pentucket put seven unanswered points together and three minutes later they were in front, 34-29. A key possession for the Sachems in this successful sequence was when an offensive rebound led to a corner three by Alyssa Thompson.
Pentucket led the rest of the way but the Cougars were never far away. They were within one point several times but Pentucket had answers. Rebound baskets. Floaters in the lane and free throws kept the Cougars from actually catching up.
The Sachems depth was crucial in the end game. Coach McNamara was able to have his starters on the court in the closing minutes. Coach Orlando had three starters (Ava Foley, Haley Roberts, Ellie Hilsabeck) foul out.
Impressive for NDA was senior Kristin Barrett. Kristin ended up with eighteen points including eight in the first five minutes of the final quarter that had the Cougars only trailing, 48-46.
“Notre Dame has always been a good team,” explained Angelica Hurley post-game, “especially #13 (Kristin Barrett). We always struggle to contain her. She’s really fast.”
“We kept them in the game with our fouling,” said Coach McNamara. “There was no flow to the game as a result.”
Angelica Hurley: “We definitely need to work on our gap defense. We do it well in practice, but it doesn’t show in the games. We also can’t get frustrated with each other.”
Coach McNamara: “We have been playing Notre Dame for thirteen years. Somehow their coach and I started talking and we ended up playing them. They now have a new coach, but I hope we can continue to play them in the future.”
Coach McNamara had daughters play for him a while ago. Coach Orlando had her seventh-grade daughter playing for her tonight.
“You have to focus on the game and not on your kid playing,” recalled Coach McNamara. “Coach Orlando’s daughter is pretty good for a 7th grader.”
“It’s exciting to have your daughter play for you,” said Coach Orlando. “We don’t put a lot of emphasis on it. I don’t coach her differently. She is very poised for her age.”
A first for me tonight: Both coaches thanked me for covering the game.
Junior Arielle Cleveland injured an ankle on Friday night during Pentucket’s win over Triton. Could be out a couple of weeks.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge significantly if you click on them.)