Cole Vuylsteke

Cole Vuylsteke

AMESBURY — It’s impossible to miss Cole Vuylsteke if you go to a Pentucket boys basketball game.

Even if he somehow doesn’t score — which would be exceedingly rare — you’ll eventually want to figure out who the kid who won’t stop talking wearing No. 33 is. Whether it’s yelling out assignments, screens or where the shooters are on defense, yelling out encouragement to his teammates after they score, or, yes, even occasionally saying something to the opposing student section.

Vuylsteke is always engaged.

And oh yeah, the senior captain also leads the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg.

So it’s not like he’s all bark with no bite.

On Tuesday night, Vuylsteke showcased all that makes his game and leadership great in Pentucket’s 58-45 win over Amesbury. After the Panthers fell behind early, he willed them back with a gritty 27-point performance. He went a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line, made sure his team was rotating correctly on defense and drained a clutch 3 when the Red Hawks were making a small run in the fourth quarter.

“I value (being a captain) a ton,” said Vuylsteke. “We have a lot of freshmen and some sophomores on the team that have never played at this type of level, and you’ve got to coach them to get better. “

Vuylsteke’s scoring, and perhaps more importantly his intangibles, have been crucial for the Panthers (3-8).

“We need Cole to play well, and he had a great game tonight,” said Pentucket coach Ed Hickey. “His intangibles in terms of communicating, making sure guys are in the right spots. There were a couple of times where guys were in the wrong spot defensively, and he’s directing them. Ideally, I need five guys talking like that.”

Amesbury (1-11) jumped out to a 16-12 lead after the first quarter thanks to the play of Matt Heidt (16 points). Nick Marden and Othmane Missoaui were controlling the boards, and the Red Hawks were getting steady point guard play from Justin Dube (11 points) as they have all season.

Just a freshman, Dube has stepped into a starting role and is averaging 7.8 ppg this winter. Another freshman, Parker Delong (8.6 ppg) has been another immediate sparkplug as well.

“He’s a tough kid and we’re asking a lot of him,” said Amesbury coach Tom Comeau of Dube. “What I thought was going to be my point guard this year, Jake Harring, he transferred to Austin Prep for baseball. So Justin had to jump into that spot as a freshman, and he’s done one hell of a job. But we’re asking a lot of a young freshman to try and carry a team that’s pretty inexperienced.”

But after that tough first quarter, Pentucket locked in on both ends of the floor.

Max MacDonald and Peter Hart added buckets, and a Vuylsteke layup helped Pentucket take a 24-23 lead at the break. Then to start the third, the Panthers opened on an 8-0 run to open up a cushion. Nico Cox had a strong driving layup for Amesbury, but Vuylsteke responded with an and-1 followed by an Owen Tedeschi 3 to put the Panthers up 42-28 heading into the fourth.

“We kept the turnovers low and we really picked it up on the defensive end,” said Vuylsteke. “Turnovers have been killing us all year, but we kept those low today and played some good offense-defense, passed the ball well and trusted each other. Amesbury is a good team, so this was a huge win.”

The Red Hawks twice cut it to a single-digit game in the final quarter. Once on a driving floater from Heidt, and the other on a Dube jumper.

But each time, Pentucket immediately responded with a 3.

Vuylsteke swished the first one to make it 52-38 with 3:45 left, and the other came from Nicholas Yassmine to basically ice the game. A junior, Yassmine hit three big triples and finished with 9 points.

“They played together,” said Hickey. “Defensively, I thought they were doing a really good job communicating, and we started to get high-quality shots on the offensive end. When we made our run, we were taking care of the ball and making good decisions.”

Pentucket 58, Amesbury 45

Pentucket (58): Austin Gagnon 0-0-0, Max MacDonald 2-1-5, Dylan Scott 1-0-2, Owen Tedeschi 2-2-7, Peter Hart 3-2-8, Nicholas Yassmine 3-0-9, Cole Vuylsteke 9-7-27. Totals 20-12-58

Amesbury (45): Othmane Missaoui 1-0-2, Matt Heidt 4-7-16, Henry O’Neill 1-0-2, Parker Delong 0-0-0, Nick Marden 2-1-5, Christian McGarry 0-0-0, Charlie Mackie 0-0-0, Justin Dube 3-2-11, Robert Dalton 1-2-4, Nico Cox 2-1-5, Will Arsenault 0-0-0. Totals 14-13-45

3-pointers: P — Yassmine 3, C. Vuylsteke 2, Tedeschi; A — Dube 3, Heidt

Pentucket (3-8): 12 12 18 16 — 58

Amesbury (1-11): 16 7 5 17 — 45

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