EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 11, 2013

Pentucket, Central both face powerhouses

By Christopher Smith

---- — Defending Division 3 championship Pentucket has its work cut out today, going against powerhouse Archbishop Williams (21-5), the second-ranked team in the EMass poll.

The two schools meet in the Division 3 semifinal at the Boston Garden at 4:15 p.m.

Archies’ loss total is deceiving because the Bishops were beaten by some tough opponents, including No. 1 Reading, two New Jersey schools and a team from Rhode Island.

Archies has a 6-3 sophomore center, Jaylen Williams, who is committed to Penn State. UMass has offered another Bishops sophomore, Alana Gilmer, who is 6-foot.

Williams comes from an athletic family. Her father, Brent Williams, 48, played defensive end for the New England Patriots (1986-1993), the Seattle Seahawks (1994-95) and New York Jets (1996). He recorded 45.5 careers sacks, including 43.5 with New England.

“Talent-wise, they maybe the top team in the state,” Pentucket coach John McNamara said about Archies. “They’re like an all-star team of kids who have college scholarship offers. They have a front court of a 6-3, 6-2 and a 6-footer. And then they have three very talented guards. I think all six of those kids have college scholarship offers already.”

Its imperative Pentucket’s offense takes care of the basketball. Archies runs a full-court press.

“They go on runs,” McNamara said. “They have so much offensive talent that they hit you with a 9-0 run and then a four-point game is up to 13. We have to control and contain the pace in that sense that we can’t let them go on runs. We have to secure the ball.”

But McNamara said trying to control the pace won’t be easy.

Tomorrow will be the fourth state semifinal meeting between Pentucket and Archies since 2007. Archies has a 2-1 edge, winning in 2007 and ‘08. The Sachems won in 2010.

Central faces stacked Braintree.

Central Catholic will play powerhouse Braintree today at the Garden at 7:45 p.m. in the Division 1 state semifinal.

Braintree (24-2) is ranked No. 3 in the EMass poll.

Bowdoin recruit Rachel Norton, a senior, leads Braintree, which also has Molly Reagan (6-2), Bridget Herlihy (6-2) and Ashley Russell who all are talented sophomore returning starters.

And then there is Herlihy’s sister Brianna (6-0) who provides even more height and athleticism.

How talented are these girls? Well, the scholarships have been pouring in.

Boston College has offered a scholarship to both Reagan and Bridget Herlihy while both Herlihy sisters have received offers from Rhode Island and UMass, according to ESPNBoston.com, which also reported that Reagan and both Herlihy sisters also have received offers from Holy Cross.

“They’re strength is that they are big,” Central coach Sue Downer said about Braintree. “So we know that our No. 1 job for tomorrow is to rebound. We just finished practice and that was our main focus of today is making sure we know we cannot allow them second opportunities and we’ve got to box out better than we ever have.”

Downer likes how her team has played this postseason. She said everything the team has talked about this season is coming together. The Raiders blew out their first three playoff opponents — Woburn, Methuen and Andover — and then won 60-51 over Westford.

“I just see a determination in them,” Downer said about her team. “And certain people are making big shots for us. Darion Summers coming off the bench for us has been playing tremendous. Courtney (Walsh) stepped up (Saturday) and Caitlin Dell’Orfano hit some huge shots for us.”