(Haverhill MA) Fouls were a problem for Pentucket in the first half but that didn’t prevent the Sachems from defeating Swampscott, 52-28, on Tuesday night at Whittier.
The win sends Pentucket (21-3) to the Division 2 North finals at the Tsongas Arena on Saturday to face the winner of the Tewksbury/Melrose game.
For part of the second quarter, Maddie Doyle was the only Pentucket starter on the floor. Angelica Hurley, Angelina Yacubacci, and Jess Galvin each had two fouls while Liv Cross had an injury.
On this evening the Sachems reserves were crucial contributors. “Z (MacKenzie Currie) gave us points,” said Coach John McNamara. “Anna (Wyner) covered their best player, and Arielle (Cleveland) was good on both ends.”
Instead of Swampscott taking advantage of Pentucket’s foul woes, they instead fell behind, 15-5, after one quarter.
“Pentucket is a very, very tough team,” said Swampscott coach Katelyn Leonard afterwards. “We just couldn’t find the basket.”
The personnel for the Sachems may have changed but the effective defense didn’t. Their full-court pressure often forced turnovers and hurried shots.
“Defense is what we focus most on in practice,” said senior Maddi Doyle. “Everyone wants their chance to play run-and-jump.”
The Big Blue (16-6) were only down 26-16 at the half. Make some shots and things could get interesting.
“I told the team at halftime,” said Coach McNamara, “that they had to settle down and play better defense.” And that is what they did.
The starters applied their tight brand of defense with few fouls, while down the other end the points started to pile up. Angelina Yacubacci (15 points) had a triple and two free throws while teammate Maddi Doyle added a layup and a triple to pace the Sachems in the breakaway third quarter.
That 10-point halftime lead bulged to 39-22 and the #1 seed coasted through the final quarter.
Coach Leonard: “Pentucket didn’t do anything we didn’t expect. They just execute so well. It’s one thing to know something is coming. It’s another thing to stop it.”
Maddi Doyle: “Surprisingly, I wasn’t in foul trouble. I’m usually the first one on the bench with fouls. Kids came off the bench and stepped up. It shows the depth we have.”
Coach McNamara: “We were anxious at the start. It took a whole half for us to be playing defense the way we wanted to. In the second half, we played defense without all the fouling.”
Arielle Cleveland: “Our team is deep. I had more playing time and tried to contribute any way I could.”
Maddi Doyle told me after the game that she wants to go to the College of Charleston in South Carolina in the fall and study physical therapy.
Senior Grace DiGrande paced SHS with eleven points.
Sophomore MacKenzie Currie had ten points for Pentucket.
Swampscott’s Nikki Rosa is going to play basketball for Roger Williams next year.
Katie Watts is going to go to Endicott to play softball.
The Big Blue reached the semifinals by defeating North Reading 49-47. Nikki had nineteen points and twelve rebounds against the Hornets.
Maddie Doyle: “I would rather play defense than anything. When we’re trapping it does things to other teams.”
The Sachems are three wins away from a state title. “We were so close (state semifinals) last year,” said Maddie. “I want to just keep going forward.”
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)