By Chuck Frye
---- — LAWRENCE — A little thing like a charley horse wasn’t going to take Kelsi McNamara out of this game. There was too much at stake.
When the diminutive sophomore bumped knees with a Central Catholic defender in the late stages of the third quarter, she not only missed just a minute of playing time, she spearheaded a defensive effort that yielded just 10 points over the final nine minutes.
Also sparked by a crushing 3-pointer from McKenna Kilian and by Coley Viselli’s 1,000th career point, the Sachems drew away for their second straight IAABO Board 130 Tourney title, 59-49 over the host Raiders.
“My leg got better since I forgot about it,” said McNamara, the tourney MVP who finished with 21 points including three first-half 3-pointers that kept Pentucket in the lead. “When I thought about it, it hurt, so I got it out of my mind.”
Psychology played a key role in the Sachems’ victory, particularly from seniors like Viselli (11 points), Alex Moore (9 points) and Tess Nogueira (11 points and 10 rebounds).
“We’re always working hard on defense, but sometimes we need to calm down on offense,” she said. “We shoot too fast, and it’s important for us to get everybody involved. The seniors always calm us down when we get rattled.”
It was hard to figure that Viselli would have had the energy to settle her teammates down considering she drew the short straw, guarding mobile 6-foot forward Casey McLaughlin all day long. The senior finished up with a game-high 22 points but needed 21 shots to get there due to Viselli’s blanketing.
As a team, Pentucket (now 20-1) made Central (16-5) work to convert 18 field goals on 65 attempts (28 percent), shrinking that to seven percent in the fourth quarter (1 for 14).
“Scoring wasn’t a top priority for me (yesterday),” Viselli said. “I knew (Casey) would get her points, I just had to limit her. It was a lot of work and it takes it’s toll, but the fact we were able to hold them off was definitely a factor at the end.”
Then she was surprised when, after making the first of two free throws with 1:51 left in the game, coach John McNamara and her teammates came out onto the court with a flower bouquet to honor her 1,000th point.
“I didn’t know I was that close,” said Viselli.
“It was good to see her get there during such an important game,” said the mentor.
Central looked to have an answer to open up its offense in the second half, running a high-low game with twin towers McLaughlin and Amanda Williams (12 points and 13 boards) that sparked a 10-4 run and a 35-32 lead with 5:35 left in the third quarter. But the Sachems packed in the lane while still double-teaming the ball handler, and gradually took the Raiders out of their flow.
“Definitely their press took us out of what we wanted to do; Viselli made a difference in the second half,” said Central coach Sue Downer. “We missed some high-percentage shots and didn’t execute well. We have to get back to work, watch some film and define the things we have to do to get better for the tourney.”
Pentucket 59, Central Catholic 49
Pentucket (59): Sydney Snow 0 0-0 0, Alex Moore 3 2-4 9, Kelsi McNamara 6 6-8 21, Nicole Viselli 3 3-4 11, McKenna Kilian 3 0-0 7, Kassidy Kennefick 0 0-0 0, Tess Nogueira 4 3-4 11, Emily Dresser 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 14-20 59
Central Catholic (49): Courtney Walsh 1 2-2 5, Alex Nagri 0 2-2 2, Amanda Williams 5 2-2 12, Toni Joy 0 0-0 0, Madison Borrelli 0 0-0 0, Caitlin Dell’Orfano 2 0-0 4, Darion Summers 2 0-0 4, Casey McLaughlin 8 6-8 22. Totals 18 12-14 49
3-pointers: P — McNamara 3, Viselli 2, A. Moore, Kilian; CC — Walsh
Pentucket (20-1): 13 15 16 15 — 59
Central Catholic (16-5): 14 11 18 6 — 49