LOWELL — Knowing what needs to be done against the Pentucket girls basketball team is not a mystery.
Executing the necessary game plan, however, is rarely as easy as it is to employ it.
Ipswich High started slow, bounced back late in the first quarter and early in the second, but fell into a long funk that cost it dearly in a 49-30 loss to the Sachems at the Tsongas Center on Saturday morning in the Division 3 North final.
Pentucket used its standard smothering defense all over the court and went on a 16-0 run to end the first half. What once was a 14-10 quickly swelled to 30-10 as both teams headed to the locker room.
"We knew (about their defense) and expected that, but we still weren't able to get our offense going. We shot 10-for-52. That's not a good night, obviously," Ipswich (18-5) coach Mandy Zegarowski said.
"I thought we were OK defensively. I just think we were a little intimidated and a little nervous when we went out there."
Ipswich struggled to break Pentucket's press early, and when it did, the shots weren't falling.
Pentucket opened a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter before the Tigers responded to outscore their Cape Ann League opponents, 10-5, over the next eight minutes.
Pentucket guard Alex Moore then provided eight points for the Sachems during the half-ending spurt, including a long three to beat the halftime buzzer.
"That was a nice psychological dagger," Pentucket (21-4) coach John McNamara said. "A lot of things went well the last couple minutes of the half."
Just seconds before Moore beat the halftime buzzer, Ipswich lost junior forward Julia Davis to a knee injury. Davis twisted her knee stepping off the basketball surface after trying to save a ball from going out of bounds and never returned.
At that point, Pentucket had the game well in hand, but it made it easier for the West Newbury school to put it away in the second half as it increased its lead to 28 (39-11) near the end of the third quarter.
"Preparing for Pentucket, you have to be able to go deep on your bench," Zegarowski said. "You need perimeter players that can really take care of the ball and have people that are confident bringing it up."
Sarah Higgins had 12 points to lead Pentucket, with Moore chipping in 10.
Ipswich freshman point guard Masey Zegarowski had eight points for the Tigers, but all eight came in the final three minutes of the game. Sophomore forward Bridget Curran provided Ipswich with a spark in the second half, dumping in six points.
Ipswich may not be going to the TD Garden tomorrow for the state semifinals, but the future remains bright. The Tigers are only losing seniors Shannon McFayden and Nyra Constant.
"What (the returning players) will take from this is that they're going to have to — in this environment and atmosphere and against this competition — develop their skills and be confident," Zegarowski said.
Pentucket 49, Ipswich 30
at Tsongas Center, Lowell
Ipswich: McFayden 1-2-5, Zegarowski 3-1-8, Constant 1-0-2, Curran 3-0-6, Davis 1-1-3, O'Flynn 0-2-2, Soliozy 1-1-4. Totals 10-7-30.
Pentucket: Moore 4-0-10, K. McNamara 0-3-3, Viselli 2-4-9, L. McNamara 1-1-3, Higgins 5-2-12, Noguera 4-0-8, Dresser 0-4-4. Totals 16-14-49.
Halftime: Pentucket, 30-10.
3-pointers: I, McFayden, Zegarowski, Soliozy; P, Moore 2, Viselli.
Records: I, 18-5; P, 21-4.