By Dave Dyer
---- — 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.
Intense defense continued for the final two quarters, but there was no consistency offensively. The Sachems scored just 15 points in the second half and all but two of them were by McNamara and Viselli. Watertown actually outscored Pentucket 18-15 in the final two frames.
“Those last two quarters seemed to take forever,” said Coach McNamara. “Maybe we had a little letdown after getting out to the big lead.”
However, the bottom line, said daughter Kelsi, is that “we didn’t play as well as we wanted, but we got the win. That was the main thing.”
The defending state champion Sachems will need to play better today when they face South champion Archbishop Williams (21-5) in the EMass finals at TD Garden.
“We have some work to do,” said coach McNamara. “The Archies are good, one of the best teams in the state and they have girls 6-feet, 6-3 and 6-2. We’ll have our hands full.”
Archbishop Williams and Pentucket have met in the state semifinals three times since 2007, with Archbishop Williams winning twice. But the Sachems have experience in these big games, and they do have that ever-present defense.
As for Watertown, there will be another day.
“That’s a lot better team than they looked today,” said McNamara. “I told their coach (Pat Ferdinand) after the game that they’ll be back here. They’ve got talent and they’re well coached.”
agateHed:Pentucket 38, Watertown 24
agateText:Division 3 North Final
Pentucket (38): Sydney Snow 0 0-0 0, Alex Moore 1 1-2 3, Kelsi McNamara 6 0-0 15, Coley Viselli 6 1-2 15, Taylor Moore 0 0-0 0, McKenna Kilian 1 0-0 2, Sarah Wiles 0 0-0 0, Carolyn Modlish 0 0-0 0, Kassidy Kennefick 0 0-0 0, Tess Nogueira 1 1-4 3, Rebecca Torrisi 0 0-0 0, Riley Holden 0 0-0 0, Emily Dresser 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 3-8 38
agateText:Watertown (24): Michaela Antonellis 0 0-0 0, Rachel Morris 0 0-0 0, Gabriella Coppola 1 1-6 4, Rachel Campbell 3 1-2 7, Gianna Coppola 2 0-0 5, Victoria Boyle 1 0-0 2, Felicia Korte 0 2-2 2, Katelyn Rourke 1 2-6 4, Francesca Korte 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 6-16 24
agateText:3-pointers: P — McNamara 3, Viselli 2; W — Gabriella Coppola, Gianna Coppola
agateText:Watertown (13-11): 2 4 10 8 — 24
agateText:Pentucket (24-1): 14 9 9 6 — 38
Return to the Garden Today will be the fifth time in the last seven years that Pentucket has advanced to the EMass. finals at TD Garden. Here are how the Sachems fared in their first four trips. Year Result Comment 2007 Archbishop Williams 45, Pentucket 31 Archies win first of two straight state titles 2008 Archbishop Williams 59, Pentucket 53 Pentucket led 45-43 with 6:05 left 2010 Pentucket 62, Archbishop Williams 37 Lost in state final to Lee, 56-42 2012 Pentucket 53, Fairhaven 39 Defeated Sabis 55-32 in state final