LOWELL, Mass. -- A total team commitment to defense has served as the foundation for the Pentucket girls basketball team all season long, and that same determination is why the Sachems are heading back to TD Garden.
Guards Kelsi McNamara and Nicole Viselli each tossed in 15 points and the top-seeded Sachems put on a defensive clinic in a 38-24 rout of No. 11 Watertown in Saturday's Div. 3 North title game at Tsongas Center.
Pentucket (24-1) will battle one of the state's best overall teams in Archbishop Williams in Monday's state semifinals at TD Garden.
McNamara and Viselli combined for 15 of the Sachems first 18 points as the team opened up an 18-2 lead into the opening minutes of the second quarter. Defensively, Pentucket held the upstart Raiders (13-11) to just six points in the first half.
"Its our defense," said Sachems coach John McNamara. "We worked on it, we got a good scouting report on Watertown and we knew what they liked to do and our kids buy into playing defense. We've got some senior leadership that kind of demands that kids play defense and we play I think very good team defense. (Watertown's Gabriella) Coppolla is a great player and to hold her to four points...I think she had 21 against St. Mary's...that's just a testament to our team defense."
Watertown played almost even in the third but the hole they had dug themselves into was simply too difficult to climb out of in the face of the Sachems stifling defense. Pentucket led by 16 after three quarters (32-16) and the closes they would get was the final margin.
In addition to her offensive output, Viselli contributed a game high nine rebounds to Pentucket's cause. Tess Nogueira grabbed six boards while McNamara and Sydney Snow each added five.
McNamara, playing slightly hobbled with a knee strain she suffered in Wednesday's victory over Ipswich, didn't seem bothered at all by either the injury or the big stage of Tsongas Center. She knocked down three 3-pointers and took the lead role in guarding Coppola with the full support of her teammates behind her.
"I was feeling pretty good," she admitted with a smile. "Whenever we play good defense it goes back to the offensive end. Our team is really good at making that extra pass to get a three or a layup and I think that's what we did out there. We knew to make the extra pass and we were able to hit some shots."
Added her father, coach Jim McNamara, "It's great on the ball defense but when you have that help in the gaps, it's a lot easier to play because you know you have support. That's what we pride ourselves on, being a good team defensive team."
"Kelsi knocked down a few shots today," he continued. "She's been playing real well for us. I think she and Nicole both had 15. It's not bad having 30 from basically your two alternating point guards. They played well."