By Dave Dyer
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Usually, as senior Coley Viselli and the Pentucket girls basketball team showed last night in front of a packed house of over 600 fans, the cream eventually rises to the top.
With Viselli scoring nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, and Pentucket’s patented pressure defense in top form, the Sachems (11-0) rallied past Ipswich in a battle of unbeaten Division 3 powers, 45-40.
Trailing 35-32 heading into the fourth quarter, the Sachems held Ipswich (9-1) to just one field goal in the final eight minutes while riding the relentless drives of Viselli to the basket.
“She (Viselli) hadn’t played that well the first few quarters, but great players step up when needed and we needed her,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara. “She really took over for us.”
Viselli admitted that she was lagging for the first three quarters, but the Pentucket rally was largely the result of just following instructions.
“We were told to stop shooting from the outside and drive to the basket and it finally sank in,” said Viselli. “I had some openings and I went for it.”
The defense, meanwhile, took care of the rest. After Ipswich took a 28-25 halftime lead following a 16-point second quarter, the Sachems held the Tigers to four field goals in the second half on 4 of 18 shooting and forced 11 of 21 turnovers in the final two quarters. Pentucket only had eight turnovers for the game.
“We weren’t playing the defense we wanted until the third quarter, and we didn’t shoot very well, but we gutted it out,” said McNamara. “We didn’t play our best, but give Ipswich credit. They played very well.”
But while the Sachems didn’t shoot well, they had some excellent performances in other facets of the game.
Senior Alex Moore, who got off to a hot start shooting with 10 of her 12 points in the first half, played outstanding defense on Ipswich star guard Masey Zegarowski, holding her to seven points, two of which were scored when she was on the bench.
Senior center Tess Nogueira led Pentucket with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Kelsi McNamara, despite battling sickness, came up with a key basket in Pentucket’s 13-5 fourth-quarter run.
“It was nice to see us step up in a big game,” said McNamara. “We need more games like this.”
For Ipswich, 5-11 senior Julia Davis led all scorers with 15 points, but she only scored five points after a red-hot first quarter.
This was the first meeting between the teams since the defending state champion Sachems beat Ipswich 49-30 in last year’s North finals. Both teams agree that they very well may meet again in the finals again this year.
Pentucket 45, Ipswich 40
Ipswich (40): Masey Zegarowski 3 0-0 7, Caroline Soucy 3 0-0 7, Jenna Gagnon 1 0-0 3, Julia Davis 6 3-4 15, Bridget Curran 0 0-0 0, Jordan Morrissey 0 0-0 0, Brigid O’Flynn 3 2-4 8. Totals 16 5-8 40
Pentucket (45): Sydney Snow 0 0-0 0, Alex Moore 5 0-0 12, Coley Viselli 5 2-4 12, Kelsi McNamara 3 0-0 6, McKenna Kilian 1 0-0 2, Tess Nogueira 5 3-4 13, Riley Holden 0 0-0 0, Emily Dresser 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 5-8 45
3-pointers: I — Zegarowski, Soucy, Gagnon; P — Moore 2
Ipswich (9-1): 12 16 7 5 — 40
Pentucket (11-0): 16 9 7 13 — 45