By Gianna Addario
---- — TOPSFIELD — Going up against defending Division 3 state champion team Pentucket on opening night is no easy task. The Masconomet girls basketball team took the game in stride and managed to hang around with the Sachems for stretches of last night’s contest.
Ultimately, though, for the seventh time in eight meetings Pentucket walked away with a 45-33 victory.
“I’m not discouraged by the loss,” said Masco head coach Bob Romeo said. “They’re state champs for a reason. It’s basically the same team we lost to last year, we’re not the same team — so I think that’s a positive. Certainly on paper Pentucket is the hardest team we’ll face in the league. It was probably the most physical game that we’ll see.
“It’s a great measuring stick to tell us what we have to do going forward.”
The Chieftains (0-1), having graduated eight seniors from last year’s team, worked hard to keep up with a fast paced Pentucket squad. The Sachems opened the game on a 7-0 run, but Masco quickly made the necessary adjustments after Romeo called a timeout.
Junior captain Hannah Kiernan inherited the point guard position, which she played off the bench last season. Kiernan’s speed is vital to the team’s success and she is capable of knocking down long three-pointers.
“Hannah can make those big plays when we need it,” said Romeo. “I like what she does and as the season progresses she’ll get more confident in her role to take over the offense. Last year when she played, she did a lot of distributing to Brooke (Stewart) and Chelsea (Nason), but this year she needs to make sure the ball is in her hands.”
Kiernan finished the night with a team-high 14 points to go along with her seven rebounds and four steals.
Penucket went up by seven (21-14) at halftime, but the Chieftains cut the deficit to two midway through the third quarter.
“The way we’re going to hang in this year is we’re going to have play tough defense and hopefully make some easy baskets on our end,” said Romeo. “Once these girls get going and get some confidence, I think we’re be OK. The girls work really hard.”
The Sachems made it difficult for Masco to run sufficient offense, applying the a full court press, which created a number of turnovers for the Chieftains.
“It creates some offense and takes them out of their game a little bit,” coach John McNamara said of Pentucket’s full court press. “It worked for us and certainly got us some baskets.
“Coming into Masco and getting a win is a good thing, because they’re a great program and well coached. We’ll take the win, but we have some work to do.”
Three-year starter, Claudia Marsh, dropped in four points and added seven rebounds. Marsh has played a pivotal role on the team for the past few seasons and will be an important part of this year’s young squad.
Nicole Femino finished with 15 rebounds and seven points, while Meghan Collins added nine rebounds and five points.