WORCESTER, Mass. -- For the second straight game, freshman guard Kelsie McNamara came off the bench to knock down several 3-point shots that allowed her teammates to start working the ball inside and get to the free throw line.
McNamara scored 13 of her 14 points in the first half, while senior Sarah Higgins made 14-of-16 free throws and finished with 22 points as Pentucket captured its first state championship with a 55-32 victory over Sabis in the Div. 3 final at the DCU Center Saturday morning.
“Once we started getting people going, none of us were scared anymore and I think we just wanted to put everything we had into it to have no regrets after the game,” McNamara explained. “Sarah was really aggressive, Alex (Moore) got a couple of steals and I think that helped get us motivated to play better.”
After a back and forth opening frame, the Sachems (23-4) opened the second with a 10-2 run as Moore created a pair of buckets for herself off turnovers and then fed McNamara for one of her treys. Shyanne Wellington (10 points, 10 rebounds) slowed the surge with a three of her own, but McNamara came right back down the court and dropped her third trifecta of the half as Pentucket would extend its lead to 29-17 at the break.
“Kelsie hit some threes like she did at the Garden the other day for us,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara of his youngest daughter. “She’s got no pressure on her. The other kids take the pressure, the starters, and she comes in she hits some open looks. It got us going because we were a little stagnant on offense. And then our defense, we got some transition layups. Alex Moore hit a couple and then in the second half, Sarah Higgins got the rim. That’s our style - transition layups off of defense.”
Higgins took over in the third and her relentless aggression toward the hoop kept sending her to the free throw line. Her teammates got in on the act as well, and while the Sachems managed just one field goal in the final seconds of the quarter, they were able to maintain a double-digit lead (39-24).
“After the first quarter we definitely thought it was going to be a lot closer game,” Higgins said. “ We definitely wanted to pull away and hopefully lessen their confidence and boost ours. In the second quarter, Kelsie started making her threes and then I started getting to the line, it definitely gave us a lot more energy. That’s exactly what we needed.”
Higgins was perfect in the fourth, hitting all six of her free throws and adding a pair of layups. As a team, the Sachems (23-4) went 23-for 32 at the free throw line for the game. They also forced the Bulldogs into committing 24 turnovers and enjoyed a slight 33-30 on the glass. Center Tess Nogueira led with seven rebounds, while Moore, Nicole Viselli, Higgins and Leigh McNamara each grabbed six.
“She’s been knocking down foul shots all season for us,” said John McNamara in praise of Higgins. “If you come up empty on a hard take to the hoop, it’s a mental letdown for the team but when she’s knocking them down, we can set up our press too. We make foul shots, we get into our press. She played a great game and had a great senior year.”