WEST NEWBURY – In one of the strangest games you will ever see, Pentucket beat Newburyport on senior night to keep its playoff dreams alive.
When the Sachems (9-10) scored 21 points in the first eight minutes, few would have predicted that they would score just 15 the rest of the game. And, few would have guessed that a Newburyport (8-9) team averaging 48.68 points per game would finish the first half scoring just six points, before finishing the game with just 21.
The Sachems had their offense clicking from the get-go. On their way to 21 first quarter points, seven of its players scored a point. After one quarter, they had earned a 21-6 lead and felt good about their offensive abilities.
Then, the second quarter came.
“Obviously we got off to an amazing start in the first quarter in terms of points and then Newburyport did a great job and we cooled off,” Pentucket head coach Ed Hickey said. “I have to give credit to their defense, it was a hard-fought, physical game the whole game.”
Pentucket would be held without a second quarter point, though it didn’t hurt much as the Clippers would manage just two. Twenty-seven total first quarter points and two total second quarter points had the large crowd in attendance scratching their heads.
It’s a game that the Sachems needed, and a contest that Newburyport would have liked. Entering the night two wins shy of a playoff berth with two games remaining, it was a do-or-die scenario for Pentucket. Newburyport also had two games remaining, but needed just one win to punch its ticket.
While each team faces a one-game playoff next week to advance to the state tournament, both coaches know that a different type of offensive performance will be needed, though were proud of the effort put forth by their teams.
“I’m really proud of the kids for the effort,” Newburyport head coach Tom L’Italien said. “Pentucket came out ready to play and they played really hard. They deserved the game. Pentucket made the plays when they had to. They started strong and we were chasing the rest of the game.”
The game’s leading scorer was senior Adam Chory with 11, and his Pentucket teammate Ryan Kuchar followed closely behind with nine. For Newburyport, Dan Baribeault had an eight point, five rebound effort while Dillon Guthro contributed one point and nine rebounds on his night for the Clippers.
“We still have to win one more but I’ll take it,” Hickey said. “It wasn’t their best shooting night but I have to give my kids a lot of credit in terms of following a defensive game plan and working together as a team.”
Newburyport will play next week’s unofficial playoff game Tuesday night at 6:30 at Saugus. Pentucket will look to win its 10th game and advance on Thursday at 6:30, also at Saugus.
“We have to win to advance on Tuesday,” L’Italien said. “We will show up ready to work tomorrow but I’m proud of the effort the kids had on a difficult night. We are what we are at this point and it’s up to us to go out there and fix it.”