, Newburyport, MA


January 7, 2014

A game that lives up to the billing

Pentucket closes out Newburyport with strong fourth quarter

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.

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