SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The second-seeded Taconic boys basketball team Monday withstood a late comeback from the No. 3 seed South Hadley Tigers thanks to a big late 3-pointer from Drew DeMartino to become the first team in the Western Mass tournament to punch its ticket to Saturday's finals at the Curry Hicks Cage.
DeMartino scored eight points in the game, but his late 3-pointer, during a South Hadley comeback attempt, helped seal the win for Taconic.
The shot by DeMartino came after South Hadley had cut a 16-point Taconic lead down to four with 2:05 to play. Following a Taconic timeout, Deonte Sandifer penetrated the defense and found DeMartino open on the wing who knocked down the 3-pointer to help Taconic hold onto a 58-51 win in the semi-finals of the Division 2 Western Mass tournament at Western New England University.
“The guys know that if the other team busts on defense to find the open man,” Taconic head coach Bill Heaphy said. “Early he [Drew] took what I thought was a little bit too quick of a shot and missed, but it just goes to show the confidence he has to come back and take that shot. It was a big shot”
For Taconic (18-3), Izaiya Mestre scored a team-high 19 points, Jack Cooney added nine, while Santifer and Devon Walker chipped in with seven points each.
Both teams struggled to score early in the game as Taconic didn't score its first points until 1:25 left to play in the first as South Hadley lead 10-5 after one quarter of play.
“I was trying to figure out if we were even going to score at all,” Heaphy said. “I just think it was the initial, trying to get use to being here and getting warmed up a little bit. Once we got going a little bit, couple guys made some shots and it got our confidence up.”
That initial slow start didn’t last into the second quarter as Taconic scored as many points in the first 30 seconds as it did in the first eight minutes of the game on its way to a 22-point second quarter.
With 3:30 left to play in the second, Cooney hit a 3-pointer to give Taconic its first lead of the game, 15-13. Brett Murphy went on to score all six of his points in the second as Taconic outscored the Tigers, 22-10, in the quarter to gain momentum in the game to open up a 27-20 lead heading into halftime.
Taconic immediately came out of the locker room with the same momentum it went in with, as Mestre hit a 3-pointer and Cooney finished a fast break layup to extend the lead to 32-20 one minute in.
The lead ballooned to 15 with 1:14 left to play in the third thanks to Mestre, who scored nine of his points in the quarter, giving Taconic a 47-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter of play.
South Hadley did not go down quietly though as the Tigers slowly chipped away at the Taconic lead thanks to Matthew Grochowalski and Nate Poirier.
Grochowalski opened up the fourth with a 3-pointer to cut the Taconic lead to 47-36.
With 3:30 left, Calvin Bridges converted a layup to cut the lead to single digits 52-43.
After a Taconic miss Poirier hit a corner 3 to cut the lead to six, 52-46 with 2:48 left to play.
The ensuing possession South Hadley secured a lose ball thanks to a timely timeout from South Hadley coach Tad Desautels. A pair of free throws from Poirier cut the lead to 52-48 with 2:05 to go in the game.
Taconic turned the ball over the ensuing inbounds play, but Mestre stole the ball back for Taconic with 1:29 to play. With 12 seconds left in the shot clock, Heaphy called a timeout and drew up the play to get the ball into Santifer’s hands, knowing the senior would make the right decision. It was a good call resulting in the Demarino 3-ball.
“We lean on Izaiya and Deonte a lot.” Said Heaphy. “Like I tell Deonte, he’s gotta have the ball in his hands, especially in those moments.“
For South Hadley (10-11), Grochowalski had a game-high 21 points while Poirier added 12 and Bridges chipped in with eight.
Taconic Saturday will play Longmeadow on Saturday night at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst for the sectional title.
Patrick Abad scored 22 points, and Maxwell Robbins added 16 for No. 1 seed Longmeadow (17-4) in a 61-58 win over fourth-seeded Tantasqua (11-11) in Monday's late semi-final.
Longmeadow was up by as many as seven in the third quarter before Tantasqua roared back to take a three-point lead into the fourth. Tantasqua led most of the way in the final quarter, but Abad hit a 3-pointer with 1:13 left to give the Lancers the lead for good.