It’s been said countless times since the season wrapped up at the DCU Center two Saturday’s ago, but it’s worth repeating again.
Pentucket earned everything it got this year.
Its fifth straight CAL Kinney crown, the St. Mary’s tournament championship, the Division 2 North title and, of course, capping it off with the Division 2 state championship — yeah, that all sounds about right.
It’s what the Sachems deserved.
Funny enough, you’ll probably never hear coach John McNamara or any one of his talented young athletes use that word “deserved” when discussing this year’s championship run. Considering just a year ago Pentucket was denied the experience to play at the TD Garden thanks to a snowstorm and then blew a 20-point second-half lead to Foxborough in the make-up state semifinal at Woburn, it’d be easy to see why the Sachems would think they warranted a break after so much tough luck.
But that’s not how these Sachems operate.
They harnessed that heartbreak and turned it into hunger.
Even after losing an Eagle-Tribune All-Star and a blue chip freshman to prep school over the summer, the Sachems never lost the drive to be great — to right the wrongs from the winter prior.
Instead of bemoaning not getting that once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing at the TD Garden, the Sachems said lets just get it this year instead. As key players left to graduation and transfer, new ones — like first-year starter Angelica Hurley — stepped in and stepped up, dedicated to working harder.
Hurley took her chance and averaged a team-high 12.6 ppg this winter, the highest average for a Sachem since Kelsi McNamara in 2014-15. But it wasn’t just Hurley. Angelina Yacubacci (12.0 ppg), Arielle Cleveland (6.7 ppg) and Mackenzie Currie all stepped up to make sure that senior tri-captains Liv Cross, Jess Galvin and Maddi Doyle went out as champions.
“We learned so much from last year, and I think the heartbreak and failure of last year drove this group,” McNamara said after the state title win (43-26 over Northampton). “And these girls battled through some tough times. You saw the defensive effort they put in, they were relentless every possession. ... It’s a special group to coach.”
Pentucket didn’t let its past failures dictate its future.
Every Sachem put in the time both during the summer and during the season to get better, and the results speak for themselves.
Oh and by the way, Hurley and Yacubacci — Pentucket’s top two scorers — are juniors, and both Cleveland and Currie are promising sophomores.
“I just won a state championship my senior year, it’s just amazing,” Galvin said through her sobs after the state title. “I can’t stop crying.”
Well, Jess, you and your teammates earned that joy.
And, with all of the hard work, dedication and mental toughness the Sachems displayed this winter after last year’s adversity, yes, this title is deserved.
SENTINELS CLAIM TITLE
Our area saw two overall champions this year, with Bradford Christian joining Pentucket on top of the mountain.
The Sentinels (24-7) finished a dominating season with a 69-61 win over Proctor in the NEPSAC Class C championship, and as probably the best team in the area.
In a non-league game early in the season, the Sentinels beat Bishop Guertin — the undefeated NH Division 1 champs that rolled to its fourth straight state title — 64-60.
Sophomore Casey Hunt of Groveland averaged 16.2 ppg for the Sentinels, and was “the MVP of our team this year” according to coach Scott Hazelton. Hunt, who reclassified as a sophomore after transferring from Pentucket, finished second on the team in scoring behind freshman and fellow Groveland resident Alana Scott (17.3 ppg).
Both could have played for hometown Pentucket, but it worked out well that both teams finished the season as champions.
What’s crazy is that the Sentinels had no seniors on the roster. Hunt and Scott, as well as 6-foot-4 junior Piath Gabriel (15.1 ppg) and 5-9 junior Rachel Romich (14.0 ppg) are all set to return.
— Central Catholic was the next closest to a state title, claiming the Division 1 North crown before falling to eventual state champion Braintree in a state-semifinal heartbreaker. Still, the Raiders (20-5) completed a second straight undefeated run through the MVC.
— Salem (17-5) had the program’s most wins since The Eagle-Tribune started keeping complete records in 1987-88.
— Pinkerton’s Brooke Kane (1,249), Andover’s Gia Bramanti (1,029) and Pelham’s Olivia Gagnon (1,004) all reached the 1,000-point milestone.
— Haverhill (16-6) earned the program’s most wins since 1998-99 (21-2), and had the program’s first playoff win in 16 years.
Name, School PPG
Shea Krekorian, Andover 8.2
Nadeshka Bridgewater, Central 8.7
Emily Downer, Central 5.7
Leandra Kwo, Haverhill 11.8
McKayla Dingle, Haverhill 10.9
Yarleen Betances, Lawrence 11.6
Angelina Yacubacci, Pentucket 12.0
Angelica Hurley, Pentucket 12.6
Jordyn Franzen, Salem 16.6
Brooke Cordes, Brooks 17.6
Name, School PPG
Tatum Shaw, Andover 12.2
Stephanie Tardugno, Methuen 11.2
Arielle Cleveland, Pentucket 6.7
Kyana Pena, Gr. Lawrence 7.7
Sarah Dempsey, Windham 14.2
Abbey Schwab, Pelham 7.6
Ellen McGough, Sanborn 10.9
Madison Houghton, Sanborn 10.9
Summer Seward, Phillips 8.4
Casey Hunt, Bradford 16.2
Name, School PPG
Claire Finney, Central 10.5
Kya Burdier, Haverhill 11.0
Kendall Eddy, Haverhill 9.4
Kaitlyn Tierney, Methuen 9.5
Staci Krafton, Whittier 11.3
Aliyah Talley, Whittier 10.7
Avah Ingalls, Pinkerton 3.7
Alana Scott, Bradford 17.3
FINAL FAB FIVE
1. Pentucket 24-3
2. Central Catholic 20-5
3. Pinkerton 19-3
4. Andover 18-5
5. Haverhill 16.6
Honorable Mention: Salem (17-5), Greater Lawrence (15-8), Windham (15-8), PMA (16-5)