By Jim Sullivan
---- — The Newburyport girls basketball team headed into the belly of the beast in West Newbury last night, taking on undefeated defending Division 3 state champion Pentucket (7-0). The Sachems kept the train rolling to remain undefeated, slipping the Clippers (3-3) down to a .500 record, 61-33.
“We have a pretty good team,” said Sachems coach John McNamara. “We had a couple of slow periods, but we played well and got a lot of kids time.”
Those slow quarters were all relevant to the Sachems as Tess Nogueria checked in after a minute of up and down action at the start to get the Sachems on the board, followed by a rebound from Nicole Viselli. Kelsi McNamara took a pair of free throws next, hitting one and Viselli sank another bucket to put Pentucket up 7-0 after three minutes. Clipper senior Lilly Donovan got Port on the board with a free throw, but the Sachems grabbed possession again, leading 16-6 at the end of one.
Alex Moore started the second quarter with a pair of points, followed by three from Clippers captain Mary Pettigrew. Viselli answered with a 3-pointer of her own, and Pettigrew shot back with six more. As things became more even-keeled, the Sachems would only enjoy a 26-16 lead at the half.
The beginning of the second half saw the Sachems run their lead up to 49-23 as McNamara began nailing 3-pointer after 3-pointer, and things would not get better for the Clippers in the fourth quarter with Pentucket keeping its foot firmly on the accelerator, opening up a 30-point lead with three minutes left.
McNamara led the Sachems with 17 points, followed by Viselli, who had 14. Pettigrew led the Clippers with eight, and sister Emily Pettigrew had five.
“We had a big game on Wednesday,” coach McNamara said of their 59-39 win over Billerica earlier in the week. “And the kids responded because having a big win on Wednesday and having Newburyport on Friday is not an easy thing. But they responded well. It was a good all-around win.”
Clippers coach Gregg Dollas was a man of few words after the game.
“We lost that game,” Dollas simply said. “Pentucket is a really good basketball team in every part of the game, and we are a developing team. The next game is (at home against Masco) on Monday, and we’re going to do our best to develop before that game.”
“I think our rebound is going to be just getting back to playing basketball,” assessed Dollas, who singled out Casey Barlow and Jaycee Triandafilou for gritty performances. “We didn’t play. We played a little apprehensive, at times. We didn’t play like we know how to play, and that will come. We’ve got to find our niche, and we’re still finding it. We’ve got to get some positive momentum going.”