By Tim Lima
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Championship-caliber teams find ways to win, and the Pentucket girls basketball team did just that last night.
While it is unclear whether the Pentucket school name will be etched in any trophies come February, gutsy performances such as the Sachems’ 59-50 win over Hamilton-Wenham last night certainly set the stage for a potential late-season run.
The first half had star junior Kelsi McNamara and her dad, head coach John McNamara, frustrated. Nothing seemed to go well; points were replaced with turnovers, and sloppy play dictated the mood in a game full of emotion. Kelsi was held to just three points, all off free-throws, and the Sachems faced a 22-16 deficit at half.
“In the first half I don’t think I played too well,” Kelsi said. “My dad really got into us at halftime in the locker room because none of us played well. I knew that when we came out, we had to have a new energy, and I had to step up if we wanted to win.”
After tallying just three points and a rebound in the first half, Kelsi would finish with 17 points and four rebounds. Also coming up big for the Sachems was McKenna Kilian, who would record 16 points, three rebounds and two blocks. Seeing his daughter and Kilian have big days for his team is something that McNamara has grown used to as a coach.
“I thought in the first half we got rattled,” McNamara said. “We gave up a lead and things weren’t going our way. I thought our juniors stepped up in the second half and settled us down. This was just a brutal, physical game and a good win for us.”
The biggest shot of the night came after Pentucket fought its way back to have their first taste of the lead since early in the second quarter.
The Generals’ Kelly Walsh hit from beyond the arc, cutting the Sachem lead to just one and regaining momentum for her team.
“When they get momentum it’s hard to come back because it’s a killer when they hit a three,” Kelsi McNamara said.
“It’s a stab in the back basically. You just know that you have to come back and get an open look. I think it was McKenna who passed me the ball, and I just knew I had to knock down the three.”
And knock it down she did.
The Sachems would pull away late to a deceiving nine-point win in a game that was anything but that lopsided.
Pentucket’s late success came by way of successful free-throw shooting. Nobody was bigger from the line for Pentucket than Riley Holden, who finished with 11 points — nine by way of the foul line.
With the win, Pentucket improves its winning streak to four games and its record to 5-3.
When you factor in the 1-3 record that the Sachems began the season with, including a loss to Hamilton-Wenham, it is evidence of a team that has quickly and steadily improved.
“We wanted to prove to them that we could beat them,” Kelsi said.
“I think this win proves that we are growing as a team. We are really young, but I think we are really getting into it, feeling comfortable with each other and really trusting each other a lot more.”