(Tewksbury MA) Everyone had a beef with the referees.
Pentucket coach John McNamara, coaching against the school he graduated from, questioned many calls.
Tewksbury coach Mark Bradley couldn’t believe Alli Wild’s go-ahead free throw was negated by a lane violation with 8 seconds left.
And me? In comes Angelica Hurley for the buzzer-beating winner and the referee intrudes into the special shot.
Angelica’s last-second shot was indeed the game winner as Pentucket escaped with a 36-34 victory over Tewksbury on Sunday afternoon.
“We struggled,” said Coach McNamara afterwards. “We didn’t shoot the ball well at all.”
The teams were quite familiar with each other having faced off in the D2 North finals at the Tsongas Arena eleven months ago.
The Sachems (18-1) took that one, 56-45, and went on from there to win the D2 state title. Today’s victory runs their winning streak to fourteen. Last loss was to Masco on January 3rd.
“They’re a tough team to play against because it’s hard to simulate their style of play in practice,” explained Coach Bradley. “We had a game Friday night so there was little time to prepare.”
Tewksbury (9-10) was down, 19-10, but recovered.
“We took their aggressiveness and used it to our advantage,” said Coach Bradley recalling how his team fought back to leave with a 19-19 tie at halftime.
Of the Redmen’s comeback, Coach McNamara said, “We missed three’s, there were long rebounds and they were off to the races in transition.”
In this game, Tewksbury didn’t give up backcourt turnovers and were quick enough to get back on defense after missed shots. They also had shot-blocker Alli Wild in their defense.
Alli not only blocked several Sachem layup attempts but she didn’t foul doing it.
“We knew about her (Alli Wild) from last year at the Tsongas,” said Coach McNamara. “Her defense is special.”
The Redmen ran the last nine points of the second period. Pentucket, meanwhile, didn’t score a point for the last seven minutes of that same second period.
The Sachems, however, started the second half with six straight points. Two free throws by Angelica Hurley and two inside shots by Arielle Cleveland (15 points) sparked the visitors.
One of Arielle’s scores came after teammate Angelina Yacubacci drove into the lane and drew Arielle’s defender over to help defensively. A quick pass from Angelina gave Arielle an uncontested shot.
“Angelina sees those passing opportunities very well,” said Arielle post-game.
Pentucket was still up by six (33-27) after Angelina once again set up Arielle for a layup in the first minute of the 4th quarter.
But the home team refused to go away. “I’m proud of our girls,” said Coach Bradley. “We competed and battled even when we were down.”
The Redmen scored the next seven points. Julia Cafferty had two free throws in the surge of offense. Lexi Polimeno (9 points) was the big spark. The junior drained a three and later hit a runner from the side to push Tewksbury in front for the first time in the game, 34-33, with 1:43 left.
Next possession Pentucket got a point back after MacKenzie Currie made one-of-two free throws.
Both teams failed to get anything in their next possession.
Tewksbury had the ball and a timeout with twenty-one seconds left. Carefully they worked the ball around before Alli Wild was fouled with 8.8 seconds remaining.
Alli made the free throw……….but then it didn’t count. Why? Because she had violated the lane. I assumed that this meant that she had stepped on or over the line. My pictures indicate that neither happened. (Enlarge them for a better look.)
This unfortunate (for Tewksbury) turn of events gave Pentucket possession with a full court to cover in eight seconds.
“We wanted to set a high ball-screen and let Jelly (Angelica Hurley) come off the screen and create,” said Coach McNamara.
“I was looking for someone open but when I saw #15 (Alli Wild) jump up in the air I went for the layup,” recalled Angelica.
The shot went up and in. Then the buzzer sounded. There was a pause, the referees agreed that the shot beat the buzzer, and then the Sachems celebrated.
Coach McNamara: “Tewksbury is a very good team from a tough conference (Merrimack Valley Conference). It was a nice win, but we’ve got some things to clean up.”
Arielle Cleveland: “On that last play I was supposed to set a screen on Jelly’s defender. Angelica and Angelina are great teammates. I feed off their energy because they bring it every single game.”
Coach Bradley: “John (McNamara) does a phenomenal job. Year after year he runs his successful system. John has ties to Tewksbury, and I know his family here. He offered to play here, and we want to play good basketball teams at the end of the season.”
Angelica Hurley: “Tewksbury is a very good team. Fifteen (Alli Wild) is very talented. We’re heading into the state tournament in two weeks.”
Today’s game was an “endowment” game. That means that all the stats count but winning or losing will not influence placement in the state tournament.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)