WORCESTER - Pentucket coach John McNamara earned three trips to the TD Garden and one to the DCU Center with his daughter Erin, but had never won a state title.
But with his youngest daughter, Kelsie, now a freshman on the team, McNamara can cross that family milestone off his list.
Kelsie scored 14 points and senior forward Sarah Higgins scored 22 as Pentucket took home the Division 3 girls’ state championship with a 55-32 victory over Sabis International Charter School Saturday at the DCU Center.
“It’s special having your daughter out there,’’ said McNamara. “I love all the girls, but when your daughter’s out there, there’s a bond. Sometimes we butt heads, but it’s special. This is nice because this is a group that’s worked their tail off to get here.’’
This visit to Worcester was Pentucket’s first since 2010, when the Sachems entered the title game 26-0 before falling to Lee, 56-42.
“I know he was really disappointed when they didn’t win,’’ said Kelsie. “I really wanted to help him to have him say he won the state championship.’’
The Bulldogs (21-6), in their first state final appearance, played strong defense early, but had difficulty scoring. Madison Sinkfield’s layup with 2:49 left in the first sparked an 8-4 run and Sabis trailed, 10-8, after one quarter.
Pentucket (23-4) took off in the second on a 13-5 run, led by Alex Moore with 4 points, before Shyanne Wellington (10 points) hit a 3-pointer from the top left of the key for Sabis. McNamara answered with a 3-pointer of her own, her second of the quarter.
After a series of matching layups, Pentucket’s defense tightened and kept the Bulldogs scoreless for the final 2:35 of the half for a 29-17 halftime lead.
“We really didn’t want their three scorers [Jazmine Collins, Wellington, and Janaiya Sanchez] driving, creating contact, and getting to the foul line and making layups,’’ said coach McNamara. “We tried to contain that and make sure we always had someone in the gap helping out defensively.’’
The Sachems found the lane to the hoop throughout the second half, and their aggressive inside game put Sabis in foul trouble. Seventeen of Pentucket’s 26 points in the second half came from the free throw line.
Pentucket held the Bulldogs, a team that averaged 56 points per contest, to 9 points or fewer in each quarter as the Sachems used an aggressive, full-court defense and a strong inside game.
“That’s our style anyways,’’ said McNamara. “We like to get after the ball full court. We wanted to throw two girls on [Collins] and see if we could get her to give the ball up, make her have to beat us. Overall, we did a good job. I think in the second half she beat us a bit, but she’s a tough player.’’
Collins also had 10 points for the Bulldogs.
Higgins scored 14 of her 22 points on free throws, including 10 in the second half. She was 14 of 16 from the line.
“Ever since freshman year, I would always stay after practice and shoot free throws,’’ said Higgins. “I would have to make two swishes before I left, and that just paid off in the long run.’’