LOWELL — When all else fails for this Pentucket girls basketball team, there is always its defense.
Other than a fine first quarter, the Sachems’ offense went into one of its occasional funks yesterday afternoon in the Division 3 North final at the Tsongas Center against Watertown, but their defense once again never let up.
As a result, Pentucket (24-1) stifled the Raiders, 38-24, to advance to the Eastern Mass. finals for the fifth time in seven years.
“We didn’t play our best, but we have good team defense and I thought we shut them down really well,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara. “We had a good scouting report on Watertown and I think we stopped them from doing what they wanted.
“We know that they’re capable. We knew they came back from 13 points to beat St. Mary’s (in the semifinals) and (Gabriella) Coppola had 21 against them.”
Against the defensive-minded Sachems, Coppola was limited to one field goal in 11 (often off-balance) shots and the Raiders (13-11) managed only eight field goals for the entire game.
Pentucket’s domination was greatest in the first period. Against an inexperienced Watertown team that starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, the Sachems zoomed out to a 14-2 lead, led by sophomore Kelsi McNamara and senior Coley Viselli, who combined for 13 of the 14 points. They eventually wound up with a game-high 15 points apiece.
McNamara was particularly impressive, with a pair of 3-pointers and a floating jumper in the lane for eight points, just three days after straining her knee badly enough that it had to be taped twice yesterday.
“It bothered me a little, but this was such an important game, I had to forget about it,” she said. “I felt OK while I was playing.”
The 5-foot-5 sophomore also handled much of the defensive duties on Coppola, limiting her to just one point in the first half, at which point Pentucket led 23-6. Watertown was just 2 for 21 from the floor and 2 of 6 from the line in the half.