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Bamba, Sandifer Lead Taconic Back to State Title Game

By Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Sports - Print
10:18PM / Monday, March 13, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Midway through the fourth quarter of Monday's Division 5 boys basketball State Semi-final, Maynard made a stand.
The Taconic Thunder made sure it was their last stand.
Tayvon Sandifer had two assists and Maimoudou Bamba scored six points in a 13-0 run that took a little more than two minutes to open a 23-point margin and send the Thunder on to a 74-52 win and a berth in this weekend's state championship game.
Bamba finished with with 23 points and 18 rebounds, and Sandifer scored 18 and passed out nine assists as top-seeded Taconic (22-3) reached its fourth state title game in the last five seasons.
Bamba scored 13 points and went 5-for-6 at the foul line in the fourth quarter in addition to controling the boards for the Thunder.
"He was an animal," Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said. "And he can do that all the time. He was frustrated [early]. His shot wasn't going in. But when he plays like that, it changes everything, whether they're going in or not.
"Obviously, they went in more the second half. But that activity, that's killing that other team when he's doing that."
Less than a week after beating the 2022 state finalists from Paulo Freire, Taconic knocked off the team that won the 2022 state crown. Now it awaits the winner of Tuesday's scheduled semi-final between second-seeded David Prouty (23-0) and No. 14 Holbrook (20-4).
"It feels good," Bamba said. "It's what we've been working for the whole season. Saturday's going to be a big game."
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will set the dates and times for the state championship games at Lowell's Tsongas Center after all the semi-finals are completed.
Monday's semi-final game at Springfield's High School of Science and Technology was a dogfight in the first half.
Taconic led all night after Sandifer set up Steve Patch (15 points) for one of his five 3-pointers to make it 6-4 in the opening minutes.
And the Thunder led by as many as 12 in the second quarter when Sandifer drove the lane to make it 24-12.
But the fifth-seeded Tigers (15-8) rallied with a 10-2 run to half-time that included six points from Nolan Currier.
The Thunder stormed out of the locker room to start the second half with 13 straight points to re-establish a couble digit cushion it never lost.
"I can't repeat everything that was said," Heaphy said with a laugh when asked about the conversation at half-time. "But we just talked about how we were fine. We were OK. They went on a little run. It was a big game. They came the play, but so did we. We just needed to regroup, that's all."
Sandifer started the third quarter with a 3-pointer. Then Taconic got four straight buckets in transition as they forced six third-quarter Maynard turnovers. Bamba closed the run with a putback and a conventional three-point play to make it 39-22.
It was a 16-point margin early int he fourth quarter before Maynard's Dan Terrell (18 points) hit two of his five 3-pointers to spark an 8-2 spurt to make it 58-48 with 4 minutes, 59 to play.
The Tigers called timeout to get ready for a final push, and Heaphy had a simple message for his team.
"We just needed to get reconnected and just get back to doing what we were doing," Heaphy said.
The Thunder did a lot of it in the next couple of minutes, putting the game out of reach with a knockout 13-0 run.
Sandifer got it started when he set up Bamba for a bucket in the post, continuing a theme of playmaking for Taconic's leading scorer.
"He did great," Heaphy said. "He draws a lot of attention, and he needs to be a facilitator at times. And I thought Stevie [Patch] shot terrific. We needed all the 3s he got. Tayvon knows they're coming for him, and he's got to be a willing passer, which he is."
Christian Maturevich had a steal and lay-up, Patch hit a 3-pointer and Bamba scored six straight -- four at the line -- to push the lead to 71-48 with 2:38 on the clock.
Taconic this weekend will make its first trip to the state title game since the 2018-19 season. It won the state semi-final in 2020, but the final games that weeekend were cahnceled due to the pandemic, and Taconic was named a co-State Champion in Division 2 along with Whitman-Hanson. Last year, the Thunder lost by two points in the D5 semi-finals.
"It's nice feeling to come away with this win, for these guys, these seniors, especially, and for last year's team, for those guys -- we were so close and didn't get there," Heaphy said. "For these guys, I'm just happy that we're going to experience it."


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