By Gianna Addario
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Masconomet girls basketball coach Bob Romeo had his team practice with sweatshirts underneath their practice jerseys. He wanted to prepare the girls for Pentucket’s stifling gymnasium last night and the tactic seemed to work.
The Chieftains, who remain undefeated on the season, had their hands full against the host Sachems, however a late free-throw by senior captain Hannah Kiernan kept their record blemish free in a 39-38 victory.
“It’s hot in this gym, we practiced three straight days with long-sleeve sweatshirts,” said Romeo after the game. “You do what you can to prepare the kids mentally. We’ve come in here a couple of other times and melted.
“We knew that Pentucket would be ready for us. I told the girls coming it that this game would be a low scoring battle. Fortunately, we got enough points in the third quarter that gave us a lead we tried to hold onto.”
Masconomet (14-0) handled business earlier in the season against the Sachems (12-4), but this time a more experienced Pentucket team took the floor.
After falling to the Chieftains back in December, Pentucket went on an 11-game win streak and showed tremendous growth during last night’s contest.
“First time we played Masco, we were embarrassed — they ran us off the court,” said Pentucket head coach John McNamara. “The girls knew we could play better and we did, but the bottom line is that they’re still losses. We had a chance to win the game and it’s disappointing, but we’re just going to continue to improve.”
Pentucket junior captain McKenna Killian earned all eight of her team’s first quarter points, while classmate and fellow captain Kelsi McNamara poured in 11 in the second quarter to give their team a 20-18 lead at the break.
The Sachems never trailed until the third quarter after Nicole Femino hit a three-pointer to put Masco up 23-22. For the most part, Pentucket did everything it could to shut down Masco’s offense in the first half, but it started to pick up in the second half.
McNamara and Killian finished with a game-high 17 points apiece, while the rest of the Sachems struggled to score. Riley Holden and Maddie Torisi were the only other players to factor into the scoring, each with two points.
“We always need a third person to score and it’s been a different kid every night,” added McNamara. “We lost the game on the offensive end, we didn’t lose the game on the defensive end. We did a decent job containing Masco and usually you should win a game when you hold a team to 39 points.”
The difference in the game was the third quarter when Masco put up 13 points to Pentucket’s seven. Amy Fogarty hit a three to open the fourth quarter and put the Chieftains up by seven, 34-27.
Pentucket came right back with two jumpers by Killian to cut it to two. Mini and Femino hit back-to-back baskets to extend the lead again, but the Sachems would not quit.
Luckily for the Chieftains, they were able to make the extra play down the stretch to hold off Pentucket.
Freshman Stephanie Mini came off the bench and played valuable minutes for Masco, especially in crucial moments of the game. She finished with a team-high 13 rebounds and pretty much controlled boards on the defensive end.
“She was everywhere on the glass,” noted Romeo. “Steph is getting better every night. We need that because she’s really our only size. She just gives us a lot of presence in the paint both scoring and rebounding.”
Femino led the way with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Kiernan finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Point guard Meghan Collins added four points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Masco has six games left on its regular season schedule and is looking to head into the tournament playing the best basketball of the year.