WEST NEWBURY — The Newburyport girls basketball team will have to wait another six weeks to dethrone its nemesis.
Pentucket held serve on its home court against the Clippers last night, recording its seventh straight victory over the Clippers, 45-43. The Sachems (4-3 overall, 3-2 CAL) dealt the Clippers (5-1, 4-1) their first loss of the season behind junior guard Kelsi McNamara’s 22 points and seven steals.
The teams will meet again in the season-finale at Newburyport on Valentine’s Day.
The Clippers led 36-32 heading into the fourth quarter when McNamara caught fire after drawing double teams for much of the night. She scored six of Pentucket’s eight points on an 8-2 run to give the Sachems a 40-38 lead.
Pentucket stretched its lead to 44-40 with just over a minute remaining, before Newburyport senior guard Aly Leahy drilled her third 3-pointer of the half to close the lead to 44-43. After the Clippers made a defensive stop, they attempted to go back to Leahy at the top of the arc. Pentucket’s McKenna Kilian and McNamara blocked Leahy’s two final attempts, forcing Newburyport to foul McNamara with 4.5 seconds remaining. McNamara hit 1 of 2 free throws, and Newburyport was unable to get off a final shot when McNamara stole a long pass attempted for Leahy.
“It was really nerve-wracking because if we made one mistake, it would have cost us the game,” said Kelsi McNamara. “Aly started hitting threes, and we needed to defend her because she was killing us.”
Pentucket has dominated the matchup with Newburyport — and just about every other team in the Cape Ann League — since the Clippers last beat Pentucket in 2010. The Sachems eliminated the Clippers from the state tournament on their way to a state championship in 2012. Last year, Pentucket repeated as the Division 3 sectional champion.
The rivalry seemed destined to shift in Newburyport’s favor last night. The Clippers got off to a 5-0 start with five players on the roster from the state-championship girls soccer team. In addition, the Pettigrew sisters — Mary and Emily — figured to present a challenge in the paint for an undersized Pentucket team.
On the other hand, Pentucket graduated three All-CAL players from last year’s team in Coley Viselli, Tess Nogueira and Alex Moore. The Sachems do not have a single senior on the roster, which might best explain the team’s 3-3 start.
“It’s a good win for us being 3-3 coming in,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara, Kelsi’s father. “They’re a good team. I think Newburyport and Masconomet are the two best teams in the Cape Ann League. For us to beat them, it’s a nice win.”
Last night’s game took a turn in Newburyport’s favor late in the first half when Clipper coach Gregg Dollas made a defensive adjustment on Kelsi McNamara. After seeing the point guard torch his team for 13 points in the opening 13 minutes, Dollas called for his guards to double-team McNamara every time she touched the ball.
McNamara was quiet for the last two minutes of the first half and the entire third quarter, scoring just two points. Late in the third quarter, Coach McNamara made his own adjustment, calling up freshman Colleen Jameson from the junior varsity to run the point as his daughter, Kelsi, moved off the ball.
“Colleen played in the JV game earlier, but she’s our other point guard,” John McNamara said. “That got them out of the double-team, so Colleen was huge for us.”
Kelsi McNamara took advantage of the additional space down the stretch, scoring seven of her 22 points in the final quarter.
“Our freshman, Colleen, did a great job handling the pressure,” McNamara said. “If I can move off the point, it creates open looks for everyone.”
For Newburyport, Mary Pettigrew led the way with 14 points and seven rebounds. Emily Pettigrew had 12 points and eight rebounds. Leahy collected 12 points and five assists.
“We deviated too far from our plan,” Dollas said. “The plan we had going in was working, but the discipline and consistency got away from us. We got away from ourselves and our game on offense. We’ll be fine, we’ll get over it. We’ll move on, and go back to practice tomorrow.”
Pentucket 45, Newburyport 43
at Pentucket Regional High
N: 14 9 13 7 — 43
P: 13 9 10 13 — 45
N (43): Mary Pettigrew 3-7-14; Emily Pettigrew 6-0-12; Aly Leahy 4-1-12; Lilly Donovan 2-0-4; Jaycie Triandafilou 0-1-1. Totals 15-9-43.
P (45): Kelsi McNamara 7-4-22; McKenna Kilian 6-0-13; Carolyn Modlish 4-0-8; Riley Holden 1-0-2. Totals 18-4-45.
3-pointers: P — McNamara 4, Kilian 1. N — Leahy 3, M. Pettigrew 1.
Records: P (4-3, 3-2); N (5-1, 4-1).