PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Connor McDonough was in the zone. The Pittsfield Generals played a zone.
And the No. 5 seed in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament upended city rival Taconic, 81-65, to advance to next Thursday’s sectional semifinal against Shepherd Hill (14-6) at Curry Hicks Cage.
McDonough knocked down four first-half 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 23 points. That led three Generals in double figures as Anthony Reinhold scored 22 and Louis Higuera added 19. Joshua Moore scored just six but ripped down a game-high 18 rebounds for Pittsfield, which held Taconic to just 35 points going into the fourth quarter.
“This game, we really just knocked down our foul shots, and we were getting to rack when the opportunity presented itself,” Reinhold said. “And I think we did a better job on defense this time.
“We switched up our defense, and it worked really well for us. We closed out on their shooters and didn’t let them drive really.”
After splitting the regular season series against Taconic, Pittsfield coach Steve Ray used the nine days off before the tournament got under way to put in a new wrinkle for the rubber match.
“What we corrected tonight was we changed our defensive scheme,” Ray said. “The last two times, we went toe-to-toe with them. I guess that was more of a macho thing between me and [Taconic coach Bill Heaphy]. But the reality is, we didn’t want to go out there and get them this time. We wanted them to come to us.
“We realized they could shoot 3s, but we figured if we packed it in, they wouldn’t get the open 3. We’d be able to contest it a little more. So we changed our scheme up.”
Ray said it was the first time at Pittsfield he has run a 3-2 zone, and it worked like a charm. Taconic did manage seven 3-pointers, but four of those came in a frantic fourth quarter.
Pittsfield (14-7) went to the fourth with a 49-35 lead. It was a 21-point margin early in the fourth when Reinhold set up Higuera for a corner 3 to make it 60-39.
But fourth-seeded Taconic (17-4) refused to roll over.
Heaphy put on the full court press and gave a green light to his gunners. The strategy allowed Taconic to whittle the lead all the way down to 12, 73-61, when Izaiya Mestre converted a conventional three-point play with just more than a minute to go.
Pittsfield salted the game away at the foul line, making eight of 10 from the line in the final 1 minute, 6 seconds to extend the lead back to the final 16-point margin.
For the game, Reinhold was 14 for 16 at the line, and in the fourth quarter, he was seven for eight.
“It’s gotten better,” Reinhold said of his free throw shooting. “We work on foul shooting a lot in practice.”
Ray had more to say about Reinhold’s contributions on Friday night and throughout the season.
“From the first day of practice, our offense was designed: The first play is a full-court layup for Anthony Reinhold,” Ray said. “He’s that good and has that ability. Really, the only person who has stopped Anthony all year is himself. … He’s done this the last two times against Taconic, but he didn’t do it for the full game.
“This time, he did it for the full game. And at the end of the game, when they were pressing, he was passing it around. And I called timeout and said, ‘I don’t care how many guys are covering you, you go to the rack. If they stop you, there’s going to be somebody open.”
Back in the first half, it was Reinhold who stopped an early 8-0 spurt by Taconic to open the night. First, he fed Higuera in the post for Pittsfield’s first points of the night. Moments later, Reinhold drove to the basket from the left wing to make it a four-point game.
The game settled down from there, with Mestre (12 points) pacing Taconic with 12 points and two assists at the half, and McDonough hitting three triples in the second quarter alone.
Reinhold’s bucket at the buzzer sent Pittsfield to the locker room with a three-point lead, 30-27.
Reinhold got to the line three times in the third quarter, and McDonough hit another 3 — off a pass from Higuera — as Pittsfield built a 49-35 lead going to the fourth.
“We had a little shoot around earlier, and I was feeling it,” McDonough said. “As a senior, I did not want to go out with a loss — especially to Taconic. I really wanted to win.
“Right after that [first] shot, you know you’re going to have a good night. And if you’re shooting, and they keep falling, your confidence just goes up a ton.”
More photos of this game here.