By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Coley Viselli could only take so many pats on the back Monday night before she urged her Pentucket teammates to get focused and finish off a victory.
Viselli’s teammates interrupted a 59-49 victory over Central Catholic in the IAABO Board 130 Tournament final with 1:51 remaining to celebrate a Viselli free throw that gave her 1,000 career points. She became only the third girl and fifth player of either gender in Pentucket program history to achieve the feat. Coley’s sister, Ashley Viselli, holds the girls program record in career points with 1,230. Erin McNamara, Corey McNamara and Mike Iola have also eclipsed 1,000 career points at Pentucket.
Pentucket coach John McNamara, the father of two 1,000-point scorers, called a timeout immediately following Viselli’s clinching free throw. Two eighth-grade travel players, Colleen Jameson and Erin Mikson, ran onto the court with flowers for Viselli. The senior’s teammates also took turns offering her congratulations.
“It was a surprise to me,” Viselli said. “I didn’t think I was that close. It’s something I had thought about, but we still had two minutes to play. I told the girls, ‘I want to finish this.’ So we did.”
Viselli added another 13 points in Pentucket’s victory over Hamilton-Wenham Wednesday night, giving her 1,014 for her career. She is one of four Pentucket seniors who has led the team to a record of 50-2 in Cape Ann League play and won a total of 90 games over the last four seasons.
“Coley’s 1,000 points are a tribute to the seniors we have,” said coach McNamara. “They play the same type of game. Coley sees (Alex Moore) having a good game, and she gets her the ball. She sees (Tess Nogueira) with a mismatch, and she finds her. They do the same thing for Coley the other way. It’s a special group of seniors.”
As a freshman, Viselli played limited minutes on a team that made a run to the state championship game at the DCU Center in Worcester. That team was led by Coley’s sister, Ashley, and Erin McNamara, two seniors who eventually played in college. Coley did not start in the state-title game, which Pentucket lost, but she came off the bench when one of the starters got into foul trouble.
“Coach Mac has put a lot of work into me since my freshman year,” Viselli said. “I was definitely scared when I first got into a varsity game. He said, ‘You’re not a freshman anymore. You just have to go play.’ Going into the last run with him is upsetting, but he keeps putting a lot of faith in me.”
Viselli said Pentucket’s run to the championship game with her sister during her freshman year was her career highlight until last season, when the team finished the job and won its first state title in program history. That process didn’t happen overnight. First, Viselli had to fill the point guard void left by Erin McNamara. During Viselli’s sophomore season, Pentucket fell to St. Mary’s in the Division 3 North semifinal.
“Point guard is the toughest position on the court,” McNamara said. “As a sophomore, Coley had to take on that role. We had Erin, and then we had a transition period. I’m always toughest on my point guard. My daughter, Erin, heard my wrath. Coley still hears my wrath. My other daughter, Kelsi, is starting to hear it now.”
Viselli developed into a player who seems completely under control with the ball in her hands on the court. Her strength is her basketball IQ and court vision. No player in the Cape Ann League is capable of connecting on lengthier passes up the floor than Pentucket’s senior captain.
“I haven’t seen a better guard in high school at making the long pass,” McNamara said. “She’s so strong, and she can snap passes with a lot of velocity. She’s our floor leader, our general. She knows all of the plays from every position. She can help everyone out.”
The end is near for the high school careers of Viselli and fellow seniors Moore, Nogueira and Emily Dresser. After leading the team to a 21-1 regular-season record, another state championship is certainly within the realm of possibility. Viselli, Moore and Nogueira, in particular, have been together for countless big victories, starting with the Pentucket travel team in fifth grade, through high school and even in the offseason through AAU basketball.
“We have a connection that most teams don’t normally see,” Viselli said. “We trust each other, and we always know where the other girls will be on certain plays. If I go for a steal, I know Tess is able to rotate. Even if we’re not communicating, we’re working well together. I never thought that connection could happen.”