PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Taconic boys basketball team set a series of challenging goals at the beginning of the season and accomplished two of them on Monday night.
In a rematch of a hotly-contested game from less than three weeks ago, the home team staved off a fourth-quarter run by cross-town rival Pittsfield (17-2, 7-2 North) to capture the Berkshire County North Division and City Championships with an 82-68 win.
On Senior Night, the combined talents of Shaquille Ardrey and Mike Taylor helped Taconic (15-5, 9-1 North) impose the steadfast pace of play coach Bill Heaphy hoped for, en route to a 13-point lead which swelled to as large as 19.
His players desired to win each of their home games, Heaphy said. That was spoiled by Northampton during a two-point loss on the opening game of the season. Since then, Taconic has not lost at home, winning 12 of its last 13 games overall.
“We had that as a goal: win the city, win the North and we want to win Western Mass,” said Heaphy.
It was Taconic's fifth-straight victory since falling to the Generals 70-68, during a game dubbed as the “War on the Floor” at Moynihan Fieldhouse on Jan. 31.
“It's nice to do it against your city rival. We felt, after the first game, it was our mistakes, why we lost that game,” Heaphy said, referring to his team's defense allowing too many uncontested jump shots.
Amancho Adopo's (24 points) athleticism provided the Generals with a scoring boost late, until he and the scorekeepers were hampered by technical difficulties.
Facing a double-digit disadvantage for most of the second and third quarters, Adopo's open-court dunk in transition with less than four minutes to play in the game cut an 18-point deficit to 13 with three minutes, 29 seconds to play in the game. An ensuing fast break that seemed destined for a Pittsfield hoop was seized by a malfunction in the scoreboard system.
The digital scoring system — including the shot clock — went blank, forcing officials to stop play until the system was back up and running. After the power-outage, Adopo outran the Taconic defense, resulting in a two-handed dunk attempt with a defender in pursuit that clanged off the back of the rim and sent Taconic fans into a shouting frenzy.
Following that play, the Generals got no closer than nine points of the lead through the remainder of the game. After Pittsfield's second loss of the season, Adopo said this will force him and his teammates to be more focused on preparing for teams like Taconic in the postseason.
“This means we just got to work harder. I don't know if we're going to see them, but we're going to see schools just like them, so we definitely got to work harder in practice, work on our defense and just keep our heads up from here on out,” Adopo said.
Charles Davis (15 points) found the soft spot in the visitors' 1-3-1 zone early on, gaining space in either corner of the court near the baseline. A quick first step and clever finish for a layup and foul in the first quarter began a series of seven straight Taconic points for Davis to help his team build a 12-5 lead about three minutes into the game. Adopo answered with the next six points, including a pull-up 3-pointer, to nearly even up the score.
Up 18-17 with less than a minute to play, Taconic's Taylor (16 points) made a floater in the paint and Davis hit two free throws to extend the lead to six. Then a Pittsfield air ball led to a transition 3-point attempt that Ardrey (28 points) hit as time expired in the opening period.
Ardrey's shot was part of a 10-0 run that put Taconic up by double-digits for most of the next two quarters. Later, he said he was conscious of giving his forward touches in the paint, particularly when attention was put on him in the second half, in order to generate the offense effectively.
“Coming into the second half, we knew they were focused on me. We knew we have an inside-outside game with me and [Taylor]. We dish it into [Taylor] on the inside, he can give us some buckets,” Ardrey said.
Heaphy said it was Taylor, along with Drew Scace, providing a strong low-post presence that made a big impact on the outcome of the game.
“That's come on this past year. When [Taylor] plays like that, he's a load. You can't stop him,” Heaphy said. “When we enter the ball to him at the right time when he's open and give it to him when he's got his target hand up, he usually does something pretty good.”
Taconic awaits it seeding for the Division II Western Mass tournament, which is set on Saturday. Meanwhile, Pittsfield travels to Cheshire to play its final game of the regular season at Hoosac Valley on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.