MARBLEHEAD — The plan was for the Marblehead boys basketball team to get into the state tournament last night by earning its 10th win in the first round of the Brad Sheridan Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Instead, Pentucket senior guard Corey McNamara got hot and shot the Magicians into a win-or-go-home situation tonight in the tournament's consolation game.
McNamara nailed four 3-pointers in the first quarter — including the one that netted him his 1,000th career point — and seven triples overall while finishing with 26 points in the Sachems' 45-32 win.
Pentucket will play Concord-Carlisle in the tournament final tonight (7 p.m.), while 9-10 Marblehead will be fighting for its postseason life when it battles Winchester in the consolation game (5 p.m.).
Aside from letting McNamara torch them in the first half, the Magicians played strong defense but suffered through sporadic scoring.
"I don't think we got any easy buckets. I thought they were just more aggressive than us," Marblehead coach Wayne Hanscom said. "It was a struggle all night long. I don't think we played with a ton of intensity, but I give Pentucket credit because they played so well."
The Sachems actually had a hard time getting going against Marblehead's match-up zone, but McNamara found enough space to connect on four threes in the first quarter. His second long-range bomb put him exactly at 1,000 points.
McNamara ended up scoring 12 of Pentucket's 14 first-quarter points. He hit three triples in the final 1:43 of the quarter to turn a 9-5 deficit into a 14-9 advantage.
"I got a good start going, but we were struggling a little bit offensively," McNamara said. "I got some shots to drop early to get us going, so that was a good feeling."
Pentucket's lead increased to nine (27-18) at the half thanks to six more points from McNamara.
"We played zone and were just communicating and trying to find him," Hanscom said. "Obviously we didn't do a good job because he had 18 (in the half). In the second half, it was a little bit too late, but we did a much better job just not letting him get the ball. We just dug ourselves a hole and had trouble scoring."
Marblehead stood at 2-8 through the first 10 games of the season before winning seven of its last eight games heading into last night. Victories over Lynn English and Danvers provided confidence, but even during that winning streak the Magicians did it by playing tight defense.
Through 19 games, Marblehead is averaging just 46 points per contest.
"We're that type of team; we have to play good 'D,'" Hanscom said. "We just couldn't get it done tonight, but luckily there's one more game."
Marblehead turned up the heat in what played out to be an unusual third quarter. The Magicians held Pentucket to just one field goal and three points in the frame, but were only able to trim one point off the deficit. Marblehead managed just four points in the third.
Four straight points from Colton Dana to start the fourth pulled Marblehead within four points (30-26), but Tim Freirmuth converted an offensive rebound for Pentucket and McNamara and Will Angelini hit back-to-back threes to push it back to 12 (38-26) with only 4:27 to play.
McNamara was the only double-digit scorer for Pentucket, while Phil Coughlin led Marblehead with 13. Dana added nine for the Magicians.
"This game is history and we're just going to move on," Hanscom said. "We live another day."