WORCESTER, Mass. — The Taconic boys basketball team lately has been thinking a lot about the number six.
Really, the more important number for this squad might be 10.
Because coach Bill Heaphy's squad goes at least 10 deep, and it was a perfect 10 on Wednesday night as Taconic defeated Central Mass champion Shepherd Hill, 58-55, to advance to Saturday's Division 2 State Championship game.
Like last year's baseball state championship squad, this year's cagers have drawn inspiration from a Western Mass tournament seed they thought they didn't deserve. In the spring, it was a No. 5 seed. This winter, Taconic was seeded sixth in the sectional tournament, but responded by beating No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 en route to a Western Mass crown and a berth in Wednesday's state semi-finals.
And in the Final Four, as has been the case so often for Taconic this season, it was a different player stepping up when needed.
Wednesday, junior Quincy Davis hit four first-half 3-pointers en route to a 16-point night.
"He was absolutely phenomenal, and it's been a tough year for him," Heaphy said. "He was ready. He was on fire early."
Davis came off the bench to hit his first triple off a pass from Jaydan Cross to break a 14-14 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Davis then hit three 3s and drove the lane for a bucket to start the second quarter.
Those points were just part of the contribution Taconic got from its bench as it took a 35-32 lead into half-time.
"Dedric Moody, I think of the charge he took in what I thought was a huge possession," Heaphy said. "Nick Sayers doing what he does. Jaydan coming in and playing some defense and running the point. ... [The reserves] played the majority of the second quarter. I rode it as long as I could to give the other guys a little bit of a blow, and we weren't hurt at all by it."
In the second half, the hurting was done by Taconic sophomore center Mohammed Sanogo and junior guard Robert McCown.
Sanogo blocked six second-half shots, and McCown scored 12 of his team-high 20 points.
Sanogo recorded two blocks on one possession and altered a third shot on Shepherd Hill's next trip in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
McCown closed the quarter by scoring off a feed from Javier Osorio (seven points) in the post to give Taconic a 48-43 lead heading to the final eight minutes.
After giving up an uncharacteristic 32 points in the first half, Taconic played the kind of defense its fans are accustomed to seeing after the break, holding the Rams to just 23 points.
They managed just 10 in the fourth quarter and three in the final 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
Cody Adams hit a 3 for Shepherd Hill to make it a one-point game, 53-52, with 3:45 left to play.
But the Rams came up empty on their next four trips, a sequence that featured a block and a defensive rebound from Sanogo.
McCown went 3-for-4 at the line to stretch the lead to four points before Jason O'Regan was able to score in the post for Shepherd Hill to cut Taconic's margin to 56-54.
Wtih 21 seconds left, McCown scored in the post and got to the line. He missed his free throw, and Shepherd Hill got the reebound, but Taconic forced a turnover.
With 13.7 seconds left on the clock, the Rams put Taconic on the line for a one-and-one, and a miss on the first shot gave Shepherd Hill life.
But Taconic played lockdown defense at the other end, giving up just a desperation 3-pointer in the left-wing corner as the buzzer sounded. The shooter, Daniel Cavic was fouled, and after a long conversation, the refs put .3 seconds on the clock.
Cavic made the first, missed the second and intentionally missed the third, but with .3 seconds on the clock, there was effectively nothing the Rams could do. The clock didn't factor into it, though, as Sanogo grabbed his seventh rebound, and the celebration began.
Taconic, which snapped a four-year losing streak for Western Mass teams in the D2 semi-finals, will play Tech Boston on Saturday at 1:15 at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield for the state crown.