CHESHIRE, Mass. -- Stifling defense, a killer 21-1 run, another Berkshire County North Division girls basketball win.
Just the kind of thing that folks in these parts have expected over the years.
Except this time, it was the visitors doing the damage.
Ahliya Phillips scored 13 points and Ciany Conyers had 10 to lead Taconic to a 42-36 win over the Hurricanes in an early season league showdown on Monday night.
The win was the first for Taconic in a decade and showed that the team is ready to get back to the Western Massachusetts Division 2 finals and, it hopes, beyond, a year after coming up four points short in the sectional championship game.
“We were looking forward to this one since last year,” said sophomore Ahliya, who had a huge three-point play in the closing minutes. “We’ve had this planned out for a while to win this game. It meant a lot.”
Taconic (2-0) took control in the second quarter, when it held the reigning D2 state champions to just one point while erasing a seven-point deficit and taking a 22-16 lead into the locker room.
The run ultimately spanned the second and third quarters. When Faith Cross (eight rebounds) converted a feed from Taea Bramer (seven points, nine boards), got fouled and converted the conventional three-point play with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter, it gave Taconic a 29-16 lead and completed a 21-1 run that had Hoosac Valley on its heels.
Hoosac Valley (1-1) forced a few turnovers, but it never was able to rattle guards Braemer and Kendra Buda with its trademark pressure defense.
Instead, it was Taconic’s defense that owned the night, holding the Hurricanes to their lowest point total since the 2018 Western Mass quarter-finals, a 42-33 home loss to Wahconah.
“I thought defensively we played awesome tonight,” Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. “Any time you hold any opponent to 36 points, you’re going to be happy. I thought we gutted it out. I didn’t think it was our best offensive performance, but, defensively, you could just tell we wanted it tonight. The girls played hard and they played together.”
Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik did not think his team gave the effort it will need to contend again in Division 3.
“I thought Taconic outhustled us, which is supposed to be something we do,” Wojcik said. “I thought they dictated a lot by their hustle and effort, which I didn’t feel we put out. Subsequently, we were back on our heels offensively and defensively.
“Offensively, we weren’t getting a lot of looks, clean looks. We had way too many turnovers. I think we had us for 26 turnovers or something outrageous. Last year, we were averaging, I think, about 10. We’ve got to take better care of the basketball. And some of that comes with aggressiveness, too.”
Hoosac Valley committed six turnovers in the second quarter. It also went 1-for-5 at the foul line, missing the front end of a one-and-one along the way.
Meanwhile, Bramer knocked down a 3-pointer and scored six points in the period, which was keyed by Conyers, who stole the ball under Hoosac’s basket and went coast-to-coast for a finish that started the decisive run.
Phillips gave Taconic its first double-digit lead with a 3-pointer early in the third to make it 26-16,and Cross’ three-point play on Taconic’s next possession pushed the lead to 13 points.
It was 11 going to the fourth quarter, when Hoosac Valley mounted a rally.
Gabby Billetz converted an assist from Riley Robinson with 2:23 on the clock. The freshman center was fouled on the play and made her free throw to get the Hurricanes within three at 37-34.
Billetz was one of the bright spots for Hoosac Valley on Monday, grabbing 14 rebounds and scoring five points, all in the fourth quarter.
“We expect her to be a really good player for us,” Wojcik said. “She’s physical, she’s tough. She’s still learning as a freshman. … Talking as coaches, she probably played the best for us tonight when you look overall. … Fourteen rebounds, that’s a lot, especially when you’re getting pounded on the boards.”
After a timeout with 2:01 left, Taconic got an offensive rebound from Phillips to extend its next possession. Then a held ball gave Mickle’s team a new shot clock. Bramer drove the lane and got the ball to Phillips, who converted, got fouled and completed the three-point play to stretch the lead to 40-34 with 1:28 on the clock.
Hoosac Valley got a pair of free throws from Billetz on its next possession, but Conyers and Bramer each hit a foul shot down the stretch to provide the final margin.
While the Hurricanes have been the big dog in the North Division for the last seven years, Mickle brushed aside talk that Monday’s win could be classified as an upset.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think we’re right there. I mean, our team is ready to make that next jump. We’ve got big goals this year, and one of those goals is to beat Hoosac and win the North.”
Taconic goes to Pittsfield on Wednesday night. Hoosac Valley continues a busy opening stretch to start the season when it hosts Mount Everett on Tuesday.