LAWRENCE — For the second straight year, the Pentucket girls advanced to the championship game of the Hoops for Hope tournament against a perennial Division 1 contender from the Merrimack Valley Conference.
The Sachems can only hope this summer’s journey provides as much benefit to the school’s winter program as it did last year, when they went on to win the Division 2 state crown.
Unlike last year, when Pentucket’s encounter with Andover was called off because of a wet floor, the Sachems went the distance Wednesday night at Lawrence High School in a 38-33 loss to Billerica in the Hoops for Hope final.
“I think playing in the summer league helped us,” said Angelina Yacubacci, who scored all seven of her points against Billerica in the first half. “It gets us together, not just in the wintertime. It’s like playing in two seasons.
“I’m extremely excited to play (this winter), and I hope this year goes just as well as last year did.”
With all but three players returning from the team that played in Pentucket’s 43-26 state final victory over Northampton, the Sachems reached Wednesday’s title game with an easy 42-19 victory over Haverhill.
Against Billerica, a 40-33 semifinal winner over Masconomet, Pentucket held the lead throughout the first half, eventually settling for a 19-16 advantage.
But the Indians rallied to score 11 of the second half’s first 13 points to open a 27-21 lead. Madison Bonvie and Sydney Sartell, who shared game-high honors with 10 points, led Billerica’s charge.
“In the second half, their zone defense was, I don’t even know,” Yacubacci said. “We just couldn’t play against it and we didn’t rotate on defense, so that was the end of it there.”
The Sachems, who also fell to Billerica in the Hoops for Hope regular season, battled back, closing to within four when Angelica Hurley’s fastbreak bucket made the score 29-25 with six minutes remaining.
Another Billerica push opened the first of its two nine-point leads at 35-26 on a three-point play by Bonvie with 4:11 remaining.
Yacubacci, Hurley and Hannah Lambert each paced Pentucket with seven points while Mackenzie Currie and Arielle Cleveland each added six. The returners from last year’s state champ accounted for all but 10 of the 43 points scored in that game
“They had a great summer,” Pentucket coach Karl Tenenholtz said. “They played really well and work together. They’re a great group of girls. They play very good defense with a lot of energy. They’re going to have a good year again this year.”
Billerica 38, Pentucket 33
Hoops for Hope championship
Pentucket (33): Angelica Hurley 7, Anna Wyner 0, Mackenzie Currie 6, Arielle Cleveland 6, Angelina Yacubacci 7, Great Maurer 0, Meghan Reading 0, Hannah Lambert 7.
Billerica (38): Gia Ames 7, Madison Bonvie 10, Sydney Sartell 10, Madison Watford 0, Tayler Gibson 7, Haley Slaney 4.
3-point goals: Pentucket – Lambert, Hurley; Billerica – Sartell 2, Bonvie, Ames
Pentucket 19 14 – 33
Billerica 16 22 – 38
Pentucket 42, Haverhill 19
Leading scorers: Pentucket — Angelica Hurley 17; Haverhill — McKayla Dingle 6.
Billerica 40, Masconomet 33
Leading scorers: Billerica — Madison Watford 14; Masco — Morgan Bovardi 14