D3 EMass: Archbishop Williams 52, Pentucket 38

BOSTON -– Considering the Archbishop Williams girls basketball team starts four players who are not yet seniors, it’s easy to expect the Bishops to be among the best teams in the state over the next couple of years.

With their impressive 52-38 win over Pentucket in the Division 3 state semifinals at TD Garden Monday, the Bishops reminded everyone that they’re already to be looked at in that light.

It was the four underclassmen –- sophomores Alana Gilmer and Jaylen Williams, and juniors Leah Spencer and Olivia Conrad -– who sparked the Bishops' easy win.

Gilmer netted a double-double, scoring a team-high 12 points to go with 10 rebounds, Williams chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds, Conrad added eight points and 12 rebounds while Spencer registered nine points, four rebounds and two steals for Williams (22-5).

“I am so proud of them,” said senior captain Sara Ryan. “They work so hard in practice, they really deserve this. They deserve this more than I do. This is so awesome for them.”

Early in the first quarter, the teams traded baskets and the lead back-and-forth, but the Bishops ran off 10 straight to end the quarter and never trailed again.

They used a strong day on the glass to punch their ticket to Satruday’s state final at the DCU Center. Archbishop Williams won the rebound battle, 46-20, pulling down an incredible 16 offense boards in the win.

“They killed us there,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara. “That was the difference in the game. Overall, we didn’t play poor defense. We had a couple breakdowns but they missed some shot and just got their own rebounds and that’s a killer.

"You play good defense against a big, physical team and work your tail off for 20 seconds and get them to take a shot you want them to take. Instead, they’d just get a rebound and it put in or kick it out and start it all over again.”

Archbishop Williams’ defense was equally as impressive, sending Pentucket into several lengthy scoring droughts – and none bigger than one in the fourth quarter when the Sachems (25-2) were held without a field goal from just over six minutes to play until there was only 40 seconds left in the game.

“We try to wear down other teams, and especially at this time of year we know teams are tough to wear down because they know if they lose, their season is over,” said Williams coach Jim Bancroft. “I think the consistent defensive intensity from the beginning did start wearing them out in the fourth quarter.”

Added Ryan: “Basically all we worked on in practice was strong defense, contesting shots, boxing out and then getting and it going.”

With the win, Archbishop Williams not only avenged their loss at the TD Garden from 2010, but they bested Pentucket there for the third time in six seasons in what seems to be becoming an annual match-up.

“I know for me, I’ve been lucky -– I’ve had a ton of talented kids,” said Bancroft. “I have a ton of respect for John McNamara and the things that he does up, the consistency he brings up there and the way he coaches those kids every year. I’m not surprised that Pentucket seems to come out of the North (Sectional) every year.”

In the final game of her career plying for McNamara, senior center Tess Nogueira put together an impressive effort, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds for the Sachems.

And while Nogueira’s career has wound down, no one should be surprised if Pentucket and Archbishop Williams cross paths again in the next year or so. They will return a pair of talented sophomores had strong showings against the Bishops in McKenna Killian (seven points) and Kelsi McNamara (eight points).