Pentucket will play in the state title game Saturday in Worcester for the second time in three years.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Pentucket coach John McNamara said. “Going down to Worcester is different than playing (at TD Garden). You have to get ready for that.”
Fairhaven (22-3) pushed the ball upcourt at the start and netted easy layups. Junior guard Ashley Brown scored seven of Fairhaven's 13 points in the opening eight minutes. Brown suffered a neck injury with 1:16 left in the first quarter after diving into the scorer's table trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. She left the arena on a stretcher. Pentucket (21-4) held a 14-13 lead after the first.
“You have to give credit to them, they lost one of their better players early in the game, but they hung tough and gave us a war,” McNamara said.
Fairhaven managed five points in the second quarter, all from Kara Charette (15 points), who netted a layup and three free throws. Pentucket’s second-quarter offense also came from one player, junior guard Nicole Viselli (13 points), who scored five points in the second and 11 in the half, including three 3-point baskets. Pentucket held a one-point lead, 19-18, at halftime.
“I think the nerves were part of it in the first half,” McNamara said. “It took us a little while, but I think we got going. They are a tough team, so it was partly to do with what they were doing on the defensive end.”
Pentucket made a defensive adjustment at halftime and double-covered Charette. Charette was held to six points in the second half.
“Our defense wasn’t as good as it usually is, but in the second half it got them to work,” McNamara said.
Pentucket opened a six-point lead in the third quarter thanks to senior forward Sarah Higgins (20 points), who scored nine points in the quarter. Higgins also defended Charette and held her to six points in the third. Fairhaven managed 10 points, but trailed 34-28 after three quarters.
“She took over,” McNamara said of Higgins. “Sarah is capable of doing that. It’s like she’s all over the court. If she gets the steal, if she gets half a step on somebody, she’s going to the rim.
“Our girls got the ball quickly to her," McNamara continued. "When they see Sarah in that zone, they get her the ball.”
Higgins opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play. She was fouled on a layup and knocked down the free throw to give Pentucket a nine-point lead. Fairhaven got within seven points with 3:45 remaining, but three big three-pointers from freshman guard Kelsie McNamara kept Pentucket ahead.
Pentucket will face Sutton or Sabis at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday.
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