(Newburyport MA) Just over two weeks ago, Newburyport got the best of Pentucket.
The game was fast, and the points were flowing.
Against most teams, that works in the Sachems favor. But it didn’t against Newburyport and a 58-54 loss resulted.
“We probably over-coached last time,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara after tonight’s 34-23 win.
“We went back to our basic man-to-man principles for tonight’s game and didn’t do anything fancy,” he explained. “We just kept kids in front of us.”
The victory won the Kinney Division (CAL vs Cancer) tournament for Pentucket (12-1).
The formerly undefeated Clippers (11-1) were done in by a three-point second quarter and a two-point third quarter.
After those two scoring famines, Newburyport was behind, 23-13, and could not generate enough offense to make things interesting in the final quarter.
“You have to give Pentucket credit,” said Newburyport coach Karen Grutchfield afterwards. “They played harder than we did.”
“It was frustrating to miss so many layups and free throws,” added Coach Grutchfield.
Poor free throw shooting may have been the key to the loss. The Clippers were only able to make three-of-sixteen from the stripe.
In the win at Pentucket, the Clippers sealed that one by making eight free throws in the final forty seconds.
“A lot of our shots were off tonight,” said senior Abigail Gillingham. “We haven’t played this way all season.”
The Clippers did start off well. Sophomore Emma Foley hit two jump shots during an eight-point first-quarter run to put Newburyport in front 8-3.
Pentucket took the lead, 11-10, in the second quarter after Arielle Cleveland (10 points) cashed two free throws.
Arielle ended the Sachems second-quarter scoring connecting a long pass to Greta Mauer for a layup.
Pentucket’s halftime lead was 16-11.
“We were confident that if we tweaked our defense enough, we could contain them,” said Coach McNamara, “the question was whether we could score enough points.”
The Clippers had been putting up plenty of points all season, so a five-point deficit at halftime seemed like a minor obstacle.
An Abigail Gillingham jumper (from Leah Metsker) made this a one-possession game with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Whether it was poor offense or great defense is speculation. The fact is that Newburyport didn’t score a point in the final six minutes.
Pentucket used this time to build up a ten-point lead (23-13) by quarter’s end thanks to an Arielle Cleveland free throw and two other layups from the Sachems senior.
Arielle’s last basket was a runner in the lane just before the quarter ended.
Arielle (10 points) played only four minutes in the first meeting between the two teams.
“It hurt us last time not having Arielle,” said Coach McNamara. “She can handle the ball and score baskets. We were thrown for a loop a little bit when we lost her last game.”
The Clippers were able to get within six points twice in the final quarter.
“I was proud of the way we kept pushing, even to the end,” said Abigail Gillingham (9 points).
Abigail’s jump shot (assist Jackie Doucette) put Newburyport within six (25-19) with five minutes left.
Abby Dube answered for Pentucket (assist Arielle Cleveland) with the only three either team would make during the entire game.
Abigail then had a free throw and a jump shot from the corner (assist Makenna Ward) to narrow things to, 28-22, with three minutes remaining.
Pentucket, however, built their lead back up by getting points on three straight possessions (Audrey Conover free throw, two Mackenzie Currie layups) and shutting out the Clippers during this segment.
The margin was now eleven (33-22) in the closing minute and Pentucket had the victory.
Greta Mauer: “This was our second time playing them. We had to bring it to them, and we did.”
Mackenzie Currie (11 points): “It was hard to turn around from the Lynnfield game yesterday, but we all stepped up in some way. For a very weird season, it was a good way to go out.”
Coach Grutchfield: “There were no easy shots in this one. It was a hard one to end on.”
Coach McNamara: “This was only the third time we’ve ended a season with a tournament win. The other times were state championships. We have five seniors who contributed so much to the program.”
The Sachems defense limited sophomores Jackie Doucette and Deidre McElhinney to two points each. In the first meeting, Jackie had twelve and Deidre eleven.
The link to this game will be posted on Twitter (@mcclellandpeter). It also should appear in Mascores. Pictures should be posted on Instagram (mcclellandmiscellanea) on Friday.
All of the pictures above and below should enlarge considerably if you click on them.