WEST NEWBURY — Two years ago, the Pentucket girls basketball team lifted the Division III State Championship trophy at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Last year, the Sachems were denied an opportunity to repeat when they fell to Archbishop Williams in the state semifinal at the TD Garden.
Now, coming into the tournament with a 16-6 record and the No. 6 seed, coach John McNamara and his team are looking to climb back to the top of the mountain, but first the Sachems have to get past a tough Danvers team in the first round.
“We know a little bit about them — I think they’re going to be a handful,” McNamara said. “They had a huge win against Peabody, a good D1 team, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Danvers (11-9) comes into the tournament as the No. 11 seed, and McNamara said that when he watched them play earlier in the season, he could see that they had a good three-point shooter and some good bigs. The key for Pentucket will be to play tough defense and keep Danvers’ best players from taking over.
“We focus on the defensive end, we try to keep the game low scoring. Whether we’re hitting on all cylinders on offense or not, it keeps us in the game,” McNamara said. “We’ve played different styles. This year is a mix of full-court and half-court. In the past we’ve been one or the other; this year, depending on which team shows up, we try to see what they’re capable of.”
One thing Pentucket can boast that few others can match is state championship experience. Juniors McKenna Kilian and Kelsi McNamara both played for the Sachems’ championship team as freshmen, and now both have developed into stars and are looking to bring another title back to West Newbury.