(Lowell) Some will call it great defense. Some will call it very, very cold shooting.
Take your pick, Pentucket overwhelmed Watertown, 38-24, to win the Division 3 North title on Saturday afternoon at the Tsongas Center.
The Sachems will face Archbishop Williams (Braintree) at the TD Bank Garden on Monday in a state Division 3 semifinals battle.
Pentucket (24-1) was never behind against the Raiders (13-11).
After a 3-2 start (Kelsi McNamara three & Rachel Campbell layup), this game got away from Watertown completely over the next nine minutes of playing time stretching into the second period.
The Sachems ran off fifteen unanswered points and were ahead, 18-2, before Rachel Campbell made a free throw.
It is not unusual for Pentucket (#1 seed) to put runs of points together off of turnovers but that wasn’t the case here. Simply explained: Pentucket made shots and Watertown didn’t.
The Sachem points in this run were spread around. Kelsi McNamara (15 points) had a three and a floater in the lane. Coley Viselli (15 points) nailed a three and two driving layups. Alex Moore added a free throw and a layup.
Much of the credit for the nine-minute shutout goes to Pentucket’s half-court defense. The Raiders had little trouble in the backcourt because of point guard Gabby Coppola’s dribbling skills. The frontcourt was a different story. Watertown had very few good looks and had to settle for heavily-defended shot attempts.
Alex Moore and later Kelsi McNamara forced the Raiders top scorer (Gabby Coppola) to be a passer by denying her open looks from the outside and keeping the talented junior from driving.
There were six minutes of first half and the entire second half played after the 18-2 start, but on this day, Watertown couldn’t get enough stops or enough made shots to challenge the defending D3 champs.
The Raiders (#11 seed) actually “won” the last twenty-two minutes, 22-20, but it was too little, too late for Watertown.
The Raiders’ drought during those devastating nine minutes in the first half was so noticeable that the Pentucket student section cheered (insincerely) when Rachel Campbell ended the 15-point run with a free throw.
Kelsi McNamara hit two 3’s in the first three minutes and had ten of her fifteen points in the first half. Her defense on Gabby Coppola, when Alex Moore didn’t have her, may have been more valuable than her point totals.
Coley Viselli connected twice from long range and was able to get to the basket three times on scoring drives. The senior became a 1000-point scorer recently in a win over Division 1 Central Catholic.
Kelsi McNamara appeared fully recovered from the calf injury she suffered against Ipswich in the D3 North semifinals. Kelsi went out in this game, with two minutes left, holding her elbow.
Alex Moore had short minutes after hurting her wrist falling during a drive to the basket in the first half.
As I mentioned earlier, turnovers were not a factor. Pentucket had fourteen and Watertown ten.
The foul shooting by both teams was pitiful. The Sachems missed five in eight attempts while the Raiders missed ten in fourteen attempts.
The Pentucket defense held Gabby Coppola to four points on 1-for-8 in field goal attempts.
You watch Pentucket play and wonder when their domination (93-11 over the past four years) will end. Maybe not so soon. Two sophomores start (Kelsi McNamara and McKenna Kilian) and in this game there were significant minutes for junior Sydney Snow, sophomore Sarah Wiles, and freshman Riley Holden.
Typical of Pentucket was a lack of jumping up-and-down and rushing the court after the win. You could hardly tell afterwards whether they had won or lost! I suspect that they’re saving that post-game excitement for the next game on Monday afternoon.
Rachel Campbell paced the Watertown scorers with seven points.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)