Statement Made: Pentucket races past Amesbury in battle of CAL's best

·4 min read

Jan. 18—AMESBURY — It's probably not too often that the Pentucket girls basektball team circles a game on its schedule prior to the start of the season. Usually, it's the ones with the target on its backs.

But Monday afternoon was a special occasion.

And boy, did the Green and White make a loud statement.

Facing a red-hot Amesbury team that is looking for its fourth straight CAL Baker title, Pentucket, in hostile territory, put together an impressive performance on both ends of the floor to cruise to a somewhat-surprising 74-47 win. The fact that the Green and White won wasn't the surprising part, but the final score, between two of the best teams in the CAL, certainly was.

"I think we focused a lot on this game and it was a really big deal for our team," said junior Audrey Conover. "It was our biggest game this season. And right from the beginning of the season we were like, 'Amesbury is going to be the biggest game of the year for us.'"

Conover and Pentucket (7-2, 7-1 CAL) were ready to go from the opening tip.

The lightning-quick lefty point guard, who finished with 11 points, sparked the Green and White early with a couple of strong drives and finishes at the basket. She and Gabby Bellacqua combined for 10 first-quarter points to help their team open up a 20-12 lead after the first eight minutes.

And then Bellacqua took over early in the second.

Just a sophomore who is averaging 11.4 points per game, she had a couple of tough drives and finishes at the rim, drilled a 3-pointer and had a putback bucket while getting fouled to score 16 of her game-high 21 points in the first half. Amesbury (8-2), which came in on a five-game winning streak, had a small surge just before halftime thanks to the strong play Liv DeLong (12 pts, 10 rebs) and Gabby Redford (15 pts), but still trailed 41-32 at the break.

"We had this gap recently where we took a week and pushed ourselves really hard," said Bellacqua. "Our defense improved a lot during that time, and it's really been paying off."

The word to best describe the Pentucket offense in the first half was "efficient," and that didn't change over the last two quarters.

Behind Bellacqua, Conover, Lana Mickelson (9 pts, 10 rebs), Alyssa Thompson (12 pts) and its hounding press, Pentucket forced a handful of turnovers and held Amesbury to just 15 total points in the second half. The lead stretched to 51-35 with a few minutes left in the third after Abby Dube (7 pts) came up with a steal and converted an and-1 at the other end. And heading into the final quarter, Pentucket bumped the lead up to 22 (61-39).

The Indians got a pair of steals and two straight buckets from Avery Hallinan (12 pts) that forced a Pentucket timeout to start the fourth. But after regrouping, the Green and White got buckets from Bellacqua and Thompson and a 3 from Bethany Cloutier to take back full control.

That's now five straight wins for Pentucket by an average of 32.0 points per game.

After the Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic, which Pentucket was scheduled to play in, was cancelled in late December, the Green and White have come out of that extended break looking like a much-improved team.

"I think, for our team personally, we've just improved since the beginning of the season," said Conover. "Our defense and our offense, really just everyone on the team has definitely improved and stepped up."

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Pentucket 74, Amesbury 47

Pentucket (74): Gabby Bellacqua 8-3-21, Alyssa Thompson 5-2-12, Lana Mickelson 2-5-9, Audrey Conover 5-0-11, Abby Dube 2-2-7, Ava DiBurro 2-0-4, Emma Lopata 0-3-3, Bethany Cloutier 2-0-6, Ally Cacciapuoti 0-0-0, Kaylie Dalgar 0-0-0, Kate Conover 0-2-2, Maise King 0-0-0. Totals 26-17-74

Amesbury (47): McKenna Hallinan 0-0-0, Liv DeLong 4-3-12, Sami Kimball 2-4-8, Avery Hallinan 4-4-12, Gabby Redford 5-2-15, Emma Dollas 0-0-0, Calista Catarius 0-0-0, Eli Marden 0-0-0. Totals 15-13-47

3-pointers: P — Bellacqua 2, Cloutier 2, A. Conover, Dube; A — Redford 3, DeLong

Pentucket (7-2): 20 21 20 13 — 74

Amesbury (8-2): 12 20 7 8 — 47