BOSTON — There's one way and one way only that the Pentucket Sachems have ridden a 26-0 record all the way to the Division 3 final Saturday at 10:45 a.m. against the winner of Central sectional champ Quaboag and West sectional champ Lee: by imposing the Sachem style on every opponent and not vice versa.
Throughout the state tournament Pentucket has played many different styles of teams. First there was Swampscott, who was heavily reliant on Kara Gilberg in the first round of the state tournament. Then there was St. Mary's in the North semifinal, who liked to feed Tori Faiera in the post and pound it. Next, Bishop Fenwick in the North finals was like a younger mirror image of the Sachems. Last night Archbishop Williams in the state semifinals was essentially a better version of St. Mary's, having previously beaten them twice during the regular season and featuring dominant post player and Michigan University-bound Val Driscoll.
Yet despite the contrasting styles with AW and St. Mary's, for the second straight game, Pentucket was able to either limit the effectiveness of the other team's dominant post player or completely take that player out of the game. Faiera scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds against the Sachems, but she did the bulk of her damage after Pentucket had taken a 20-point lead, which never got closer than eight points the rest of the way. In the state semifinal, Driscoll was a non-factor scoring a measly six points to go along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.
"Our ball pressure, our full court pressure and not letting guards get up and get the ball into the post and disrupt their offense," answered Pentucket coach John McNamara as to how his smaller Sachems have neutralized size. "Big people like to get the ball on the block from a nice easy pass, and we especially did not let that happen because if we let Driscoll get the ball in the block, we're in trouble. We limited her touches and disrupted their offense by our ball pressure."
Pentucket's Ashley Viselli, who led the Sachems with nine rebounds, said there was an emphasis on boxing out drills at practice in the lead-up to the AW game.
"We knew that (Faiera and Driscoll) were really good on the boards," Viselli said. "Just look at (Driscoll's) stats, she's going to Michigan, there's no guessing. In practice we made a note once again you have to box out, you have to go for the rebounds harder than she's going to go for it because she's going to get it. So we did multiple, multiple box-out drills — chin the ball when you get it, so I think I was really focused on that coming into the game, which helped a lot.
"(Vanessa Cahill, Tess Nogueira and Lauren Iola) definitely boxed out better than I've ever seen anyone box anyone else at practice all week," Viselli complimented. "We've been stressing to them, 'We know she's 6-4, you're not 6-4, you have inches to make up, put your butt in her gut and back her up.' I think they did a great job of that, which opened up grabs for everyone else to get the rebounds."
Third police escort home
For the third time the Pentucket Sachems bus received a police and fire engine escort home from the TD Banknorth Garden from all three of the Pentucket Regional towns — Merrimac, West Newbury and Groveland. However, it had the sweeter sensation of being the first of the bunch in which the Sachems rode home victorious.
In each of the games this state tournament, Pentucket has had at least one player make terrific contributions either coming off the bench or from someone who has been a role player. Last night, that player was Sarah Higgins, who scored only five points, but also had five rebounds, three assists and two steals, and made a number of flying saves off loose balls that the Sachems have been famous for all year.