WEST NEWBURY — Pentucket athletic director Dan Thornton took time to honor, in his words, “the finest basketball team Pentucket has produced in its proud 50-plus-year history” last evening before the girls basketball team’s home-opener.
Last year’s Division 3 state-champion girls team gathered for a pregame ceremony that concluded with the unveiling of a green banner recognizing last year’s accomplishment. The 2011-2012 team is the lone Pentucket basketball squad to earn a state championship.
All four graduates from last year’s team — Sarah Higgins, Leigh McNamara, Molly McDonough and Tori Lane — returned for the ceremony. Thornton introduced the former players first, before calling the names of the returning state-champions. Each player received a bouquet of flowers from head coach John McNamara.
After the ceremony, this year’s team returned to business as usual, pushing to 2-0 with a 57-35 win over North Reading. With returning standouts like Coley Viselli, Alex Moore, Tess Nogueira, Kelsi McNamara and McKenna Kilian leading the way, the Sachems at times look strikingly similar to the team that went all the way to the Worcester DCU Center last winter.
The Sachems will press full-court again this season, as has been the case in each of McNamara’s six seasons as coach. Last night, the team forced 39 turnovers in a 32-minute game. The Sachems forced their first five turnovers before North Reading attempted a shot, and they forced eight before North Reading recorded its first basket.
Still, there were momentary lapses in the first half, and the Sachems escaped with only a 20-17 lead.
“We told the girls, after the ceremony is done, that’s it,” McNamara said. “They had to be ready to go. We didn’t do a good job of it in the first half. I think we were distracted, but we did a better job in the second half.”