(Newburyport MA) “Everyone did their job, and it was fun to watch,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara afterwards.
Fun for the team from West Newbury for sure, as they defeated Newburyport, 63-45, in a big-stakes Cape Ann League game on Thursday night.
The win gave the Sachems (13-2) the CAL Kinney Division title.
“They won by ten last time,” said Abby Dube (19 points), “and we’ve been working so hard to beat them.”
The Clippers (14-2) started well. Olivia McDonald’s three put them up, 11-5. Later, two baskets by Makenna Ward (19 points) in the last minute extended the NHS lead to, 18-10, at the end of the quarter.
The Clippers were making shots and gathering offensive rebounds when they didn’t.
It took a backup defense and some life off the bench to turn things around for Pentucket.
“We don’t use that zone defense a lot, but we did tonight and I think it got them out of their rhythm,” said Coach McNamara.
The offensive rebounds decreased for the Clippers and their top scorer (Emma Foley) had to deal with multiple defenders on each possession.
“We put the first quarter behind us and played to win the next three quarters,” said Abby Dube.
The pleasant surprises off the bench were Bethany Cloutier and Ava DiBurro.
Bethany gave Pentucket its first lead of the game (22-21) with an old-fashioned three-point play with two minutes left in the second quarter.
Ava (11 points) was the biggest surprise of all. In the most important game of the season, she came in, fit in, and produced points.
“Ava’s a talented kid,” said Coach McNamara. “We’ve been waiting for this to happen. Ava sure picked a great night to have a breakout game. She has good finishing skills.”
Pentucket led by four, 26-22, at the half.
The Clippers got a terrific start to the second half. They regained the lead (27-26) after just a minute.
But an Abby Dube layup put Pentucket back in front (28-27) thirty seconds later and they would build on that lead the rest of the way.
A big problem for the home team in the third quarter was foul trouble. Both Makenna Ward and Emma Foley (10 points) picked up their 4th fouls and lost time on the floor. Both girls can score and defend, and the Clippers lost a lot in both categories with them on the bench.
Pentucket pushed their advantage to six (33-27) in the third quarter on two Alyssa Thompson (10 points) free throws.
With Makenna on the bench for the final two minutes of the quarter, the Sachems turned that six-point lead into a twelve-point lead (46-34) by the end of the quarter. Lana Mickelson contributed two layups and Abby Dube nailed a jump shot just before the quarter-ending buzzer.
Early in the final quarter, Makenna Ward and Deirdre McElhinney (10 points) hit consecutive three’s to cut the Pentucket lead to nine (50-41) with 6 ½ minutes left. A quick timeout by Coach McNamara was followed by eleven straight points by the Sachems. Ava DiBurro finished the run with two straight inside scores giving Pentucket a twenty-point lead (61-41).
Newburyport was undefeated at home (7-0) before tonight’s loss.
Emma Lopata: “We had really good energy from start to finish. The team is always supportive of each other.”
Abby Dube: “It felt amazing to win this one. We knew we could do it.”
Audrey Conover: “It was definitely a high-energy game. I think that our defense was the key tonight. Abby (Dube) really pulled through on offense. She was making everything.”
Alyssa Thompson: “We started off slow. We talked at halftime about working together as a team. We then passed the ball more.”
Ava DiBurro: “We really wanted to beat them. I just tried to do what the team needed me to do. I’m playing better, but there are things I need to work on.”
Coach McNamara: “Newburyport is a good team. They should make a deep run in the tournament. From the second quarter on we played really good basketball. We took care of the ball, and we minimized our turnovers.”
Great crowd from both schools. The crowd was mostly adults. Absent, but not missed by me, was the chanting that goes on when the crowd is dominated by students.
Both teams are in Division 2. Back in the day, only one of them could have made it out of the North sectionals. That changes now with the MIAA state-wide power rankings determining the seeding. Pentucket is currently listed behind Newburyport in those rankings but that will change after tonight’s game.
Pentucket 10 16 20 17 = 63
Newburyport 18 4 12 11 = 45
(The pictures will enlarge.)