(West Newbury MA) Pentucket doesn’t lose very often at home, or anywhere else, for that matter.
But the visiting Newburyport Clippers got that rare feat done, 58-54, on Wednesday night.
Both teams were undefeated and had large-margin wins over everyone else in the Cape Ann League.
“It was the win of the season for us,” said Newburyport senior Abigail Gillingham (10 points) afterwards. “They don’t expect anyone to come in here and give them a hard time. We had the mindset that this was our game, and no one was going to take it away from us.”
Both teams were aggressive on offense (taking the ball to the basket) and defense. There was never a chance that the 30-second shot clock would be used.
Two Mackenzie Currie free throws put the Sachems (7-1) ahead by two, 52-50, with 1:18 left.
“I thought we had enough to win,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara, “after we got the lead but give them credit, they knocked down free throws.”
Not only did Newburyport make free throws (eight in the final forty-four seconds) but even when they missed, they were able to immediately get the ball back and produce points.
Senior Leah Metsker (9 points) made her first attempt, missed the second but got her own rebound and earned two more free throws. She made both and the Clippers led, 53-52.
After a Pentucket turnover, Deidre McElhinney (11 points) was fouled. She made the first, missed the second, but the Sachems lost the rebound out of bounds.
More chances followed for Newburyport at the line. Leah Metsker made both and now the Clippers were up four, 56-52, with ten seconds left as the game got away from Pentucket.
“I’m glad I could make some clutch shots,” said Leah. “I tried hard to focus because the gym was so loud.”
“It was such a relief that we could finish it out,” added Deidre.
“Props to Leah and Deidre for making their free throws at the end,” added Abigail Gillingham.
Part of Pentucket’s defensive strategy was limit Abigail’s touches.
“We focused on her and gave up shots to other kids instead,” explained Coach McNamara, “but some of those kids made shots.”
Abigail didn’t even touch the ball for the first four minutes of the game.
Credit Mackenzie Currie for the tough defense on the NHS top scorer although she had plenty of help from nearby teammates.
Mackenzie led all scorers with eighteen points. The Pentucket senior (going to St. Joe’s next year) hit two 3’s and went hard to the basket even against multiple defenders.
Sophomore Abby Dube tallied fourteen points including three 3’s. Her last three was part of a seven-point run in the final quarter that gave Pentucket the 52-50 lead.
A key contributor for NHS was sophomore Jackie Doucette (12 points). Jackie had a couple of three’s, as well as a full-court drive.
Newburyport coach Karen Grutchfield: “It was a nice team win. I am so happy for Leah. Shooting under those circumstances is hard, but she did it. I thought that Emma (Foley) did a good job rebounding and scoring.”
It certainly didn’t help Pentucket to lose their top scorer (Arielle Cleveland) four minutes into the game.
“Despite not having Arielle available, we still had a chance to win and didn’t,” added Coach McNamara.
Newburyport had lost seven straight to Pentucket dating back to February of 2017.
“We’re so excited to finally beat them,” said Leah.
The Clippers had only four turnovers in the second half while the Sachems had nine.
Jackie Doucette: “We’ve been preparing for Pentucket for a while. We had a good idea of what they would do.”
Impressed with Pentucket sophomore Audrey Conover. First time I’ve seen her play.
One of the advantages for coaches is that all of the Cape Ann League games are being filmed for the excluded public. No need to do any in-person scouting.
Easy to imagine how noisy it would have been if folks could have attended.
The coverage of this game will be linked on Twitter (@mcclellandpeter) and be on my McClelland Miscellanea online blog. Hoping to get it posted on Mascores too. Pictures should show up on Instagram (@mcclellandmiscellanea).
All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.