LOWELL — Another tournament game, another offensive spark for the Pentucket girls basketball team.
What has remained constant, however, has been a smothering defense, one that paved the way as the Sachems steamrolled to the Division 3 North title yesterday morning at the Tsongas Arena, their fourth such crown in the last six years.
Pentucket (21-4) capped off a remarkable three-game stretch in the finals by stifling Ipswich, 49-30, once again riding its defense to a huge halftime lead that made the second half meaningless. It will face South champ Fairhaven (22-2) tomorrow at 4:15 p.m. in the TD Garden in the state semifinals.
The Sachems have made a living out of putting down the clamps early and that was certainly the case against the Tigers. The Sachems zoomed to a 9-0 lead and didn't give up a point until four and a half minutes were gone. Ahead 10-5 at the quarter, they rode a 16-0 run to end the half to take a commanding 30-10 lead at the intermission.
In the previous two tournament games, a 56-29 win over Newburyport and a 53-27 victory over Swampscott, Pentucket led 31-12 and 25-12 at the half, giving up just four field goals in both games. Saturday, Ipswich (18-5) had only three field goals entering the second half while committing 12 turnovers.
The offensive spark, meanwhile, was someone new. After Sarah Higgins scored 24 points against Newburyport and Coley Viselli led the way with 19 points over Swampscott, junior Alex Moore keyed the Sachems yesterday, scoring all 10 of her points in the first half.
Finding openings in the lane, Moore was able to drive to the basket at will and she ended the half with two 3-pointers, the final being a desperation line-drive shot at the buzzer.
"I just heaved it and really didn't think it was going in," said Moore. "I've never had a shot like that."