NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

January 31, 2014

A familiar theme for Pentucket

Sachems head coach John McNamara has grown accustomed to late-season runs

Death, taxes and a Pentucket girls basketball playoff run.

The Sachems 2013-2014 campaign began with more questions than answers. A team dominant under head coach John McNamara’s reign (170-23 record) was facing a season of youth, inexperience and growth.

It’s something McNamara wasn’t accustomed to dealing with — the Sachems made the state championship game the previous two seasons and finished on top in 2012.

Following this year’s season-opener, a feeling of nervous energy was halted, if not for just a week’s time. Pentucket not only began its season with a win over Saugus, but scored 70 points in the process. All seemed well from West Newbury.

Then McNamara’s preseason fears came to fruition. Notre Dame of Hingham, a team that has historically given Pentucket troubles, held the Sachems to less than half of their Game 1 point total. With a 36-32 victory, the Cougars handed McNamara’s team its first loss of the year.

The slide didn’t stop there. Just two days later, Hamilton-Wenham managed a two-point win over Pentucket before Masconomet blew out the Sachems by 26 points on Dec. 27. At just 1-3 in his team’s first four games, McNamara knew that patience and progress were mandatory.

“I knew we had a lot of work to do,” McNamara said. “We weren’t playing good basketball on the offensive or defensive end. We had to be patient as a coaching staff and let them develop and gain confidence.”

“Slow” starts are something that the Sachems have experienced recently. In their 2012 championship season, a 3-3 beginning gave way to a 18-1 finish. Through the past three seasons, McNamara has seen his team go a combined 11-5 in December, 26-3 in January and 11-0 in February. If anybody knows the formula for growth, it’s McNamara. It is no surprise, then, that patience paid immediate dividends.

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