BEVERLY — With about two minutes gone in the second half, it was gut-check time.
Opening the second half with a quick 5-0 spurt, Ipswich pulled ahead for just the second time in the game.
More importantly, Pentucket sophomore point guard Kelsi McNamara (15 points, 6 steals) limped off the court with a knee injury.
Calling a timeout, coach John McNamara regrouped his team and put the ball in his best player’s hands. Senior captain Coley Viselli (13 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) settled her team down and Pentucket won going away, 46-26.
The 23-1 Green Machine will face Cinderella Watertown (13-10) in the Division 3 North final at Tsongas Arena on Saturday at a time to be determined.
After a terrible shooting performance by the Sachems from outside in the first half, Viselli went into attack mode.
The Sachems made nine trips to the line in the second half and buried 16 of 18 free throws, going 13 for 13 before Alex Moore (7 points, 4 rebounds) finally missed one with the team up 41-26.
“It’s what we needed to do. (Coach) said, ‘Attack, they can’t stop you if you attack.’ So we decided, ‘Oh, we’ll listen to you,’ and we attacked hard,” Viselli said.
With her knee wrapped, McNamara returned later in the third quarter and made her presence felt.
Cape Ann League rival Ipswich (19-4) trailed just 27-24 after a Caroline Soucy 3-pointer. But Viselli found a wide open McNamara for a dagger 3 and Ipswich scored just one more basket the rest of the game.
“I think I landed on my foot and tried to turn, and my knee twisted, but I think it’s fine, it is fine,” McNamara said of her injury. “I knew I needed to go back in because this could be our last game. I wasn’t as fast as I normally am and not as good on defense, so Coley kept telling me she was always there to help me if I got beat. I knew that I could rely on the team.”
“She’s a very critical piece to our offense,” Viselli said.
“Having her around on the outside is a great threat to get it inside. Drive and kick, that’s exactly what that was, and she hit that three right when she came back in, so she’s very critical to this team.”
“She did gut it out,” said Kelsi’s father, coach John McNamara. “She’s small, but she’s tough and she’s getting tougher by the game, so yes, we’ll see how she feels later on.”
Taking a punch and come back fighting for more, it’s what the Sachems have been about year after year.
“It was like a punch in the mouth, we were ready, but we weren’t ready to get hit as hard as we did,” said Viselli. “We just had to get back up and punch twice as hard, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Sachems had to overcome foul troubles to Tess Nogueira and McKenna Kilian and the McNamara injury.
“We knew it was going to be a war ... but gut-check time for our kids and we delivered,” Coach McNamara said. “We didn’t shoot the ball great, we had foul trouble in the first half, and we weathered the storm.
“Alex (Moore) does a great job defensively. Once Kelsi went down Alex stepped up and did a lot more. She’s very capable, she did a great job.”
This one was a lot easier than their regular-season matchup on Jan. 15 where Pentucket nipped Ipswich 45-40.
agateHed:Pentucket 46, Ipswich 26
agateText:Division 3 North Semifinal
agateText:Pentucket (46)@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: Moore 2-3-7, Nogueira 1-0-2, Viselli 2-9-13, McNamara 5-3-15, Killian 3-2-8, Hollow 0-1-1, Total 13-18-46.
agateText:Ipswich (26)@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: Zegarowski 2-0-5, Soucy 3-0-8, Gagnon 2-0-6, Davis, 3-0-6, O’Flynn 0-1-1, Total 10-1-26.
agateText:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: P — McNamara 2; I — Zegarowski, Gagnon 2, Soucy 2
agateText:Next game@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: No. 1 Pentucket (23-1) vs. No. 11 Watertown (13-10), Division 3 North final, at Tsongas Arena, Saturday, time TBA