(Lawrence MA) Free throws.
Pentucket (22-2) made enough of them (13) in the second half to survive, 45-37, on Wednesday night against comebacking Wilmington.
The D2 North semi-finals win puts the Sachems into the finals on Saturday (2PM) against North Reading at the Tsongas Arena.
The Wildcats could well have been considered overmatched after falling behind by nineteen (28-9) in the first half.
You score one point (!) in a period and you can leave that sort of impression.
Pentucket coach John McNamara wasn’t fooled: “Even when we were up at halftime, we knew they’d come back. They have scoring power and can knock down shots.”
As good as the Sachems were in the first half, the Wildcats nearly matched them in the second half.
“We weren’t playing in synch in the first half,” explained Wilmington coach Jessica Robinson afterwards. “We needed to play like a team.”
Getting Kylie DuCharme (13 points) back on the court after foul trouble in the first half really helped Wilmington. Kylie required special defensive attention and prevented Pentucket from trapping other Wildcats very often. The junior could also get to the basket and make shots.
The Sachems 21-1 segment in the first half was answered by the Wildcats with a 15-1 segment of their own in the third period.
Liv Almeida had a pair of three’s and teammate Kylie added a triple to two layins in Wilmington’s run of great offense.
Before you knew it, Wilmington was within five (31-26) with plenty of game left.
Twice in the final quarter, the Wildcats (17-6) would get within one possession: 35-32 & 36-33. But they could never get closer.
The defending D2 champs have been in close games before and were able to respond enough to get the W.
“We lost our composure,” recalled Angelina Yacubacci (10 points), “but we got it back at the end.”
Pentucket had only two field goals in the entire second half but both came after Wilmington closed to 36-33 with five minutes left.
One of the Pentucket field goals was on a runner in the lane by Arielle Cleveland. The other had Angelina Yacubacci finding a way through traffic to get a layup.
A Kylie DuCharme layup narrowed things to 41-37 with 1 ½ minutes left.
The Sachems were extremely deliberate with their next two possessions. Wilmington was forced to foul.
Angelica Hurley (12 points) and MacKenzie Currie each made both of their pressure-packed free throws in the last forty-nine seconds and Pentucket was on their way to Tsongas.
“We’ve worked on free throws a lot in practice,” said Angelica Hurley. “The practice sure paid off.” Angelica made ten-of-twelve free throws.
“They went to the line and hit their free throws, and that was the difference in this game,” said Coach Robinson. “We didn’t get to the line.”
“Somehow we regrouped late in the game because we sure were rattled,” said Coach McNamara. “We made some foul shots and hung on for dear life.”
The Sachems ability to drive and draw fouls was a key to this win. The fouls kept a dangerous player such as Kylie DuCharme out of action for part of Pentucket’s big first-half run.
“We knew that we could get to the foul line if we drove,” said Coach McNamara. “That was crucial for us.”
Anna Wyner: “Wilmington is a great team. We were expecting them to come back and they did. We were strong enough to pull this game out. Coach Mac often tells us that free throws can be the difference in a game.”
Angelica Hurley: “I could only get one 3-point shot off, so I was focusing on getting free throws. I play AAU ball with Kylie DuCharme and Jenna Tavanese. They are very talented. I love playing with them and against them.”
Coach Robinson: “Our offense goes through Kyle (DuCharme).”
Angelina Yacubacci: “We weren’t getting 3’s tonight. We got here pretty early to shoot.”
Coach McNamara: “We weathered the storm barely. They’re a good team. We’ll take a one-point win over them. It doesn’t matter. It was a game of two runs. Luckily, we had more of a cushion than they did.”
Wilmington used to be in the Cape Ann League. Now they’re in the Middlesex League.
Pentucket will face North Reading also of the Cape Ann League for the third time this season in the D2 North title game on Saturday.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)