Sanogo Dominates to Send Taconic Back to Western Mass Final
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Taconic senior center Mohammed Sanogo overcame a painful midgame twisted ankle to lead his team to a 55-43 win over Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semi-finals on Wednesday.
Sanogo scored 22 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, blocked eight shots and threw down four dunks in his team's 10th straight win.
Third-seeded Taconic Saturday will go for its third straight sectional title on Saturday at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst against No. 1 Chicopee (17-4), a 53-39 winner over Quabbin on Wednesday night.
For a few scary moments, Taconic fans might have been wondering if it would have to do so without its dominating pivot.
Taconic controlled the first half against No. 2 Longmeadow (14-8), and Sanogo was a big reason why.
But with 3 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter, he hit the deck awkwardly after picking up his sixth block of the night and went to the sidelines to have his ankle taped up.
Afterward, Sanogo said he knew all along that he would be back.
His coach was not as sure.
"I was concerned," Heaphy said. "More for him and hoping it wasn't a bad sprain. Give him credit. I didn't know if he was coming back. He gutted it out, got it taped up and said to me, 'I'm playing, Coach.'
"We'll see how he reacts tomorrow. That will be the key. ... He'll stay off it and ice it and go from there. Hopefully, he'll be OK for Saturday."
Sanogo said getting back on the floor to start the second half was an easy decision.
"I did test it," he said with an ice pack wrapped around his ankle. "I wasn't feeling that much pain, so I said, 'I can get back out there.' "
Sanogo had a couple of blocks and two fourth-quarter dunks while scoring 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in the second half.
When he departed in the second, Taconic had a 21-9 lead. It was still an 11-point margin at half-time, but Heaphy saw a difference without the big man in the middle.
"You saw how we we were playing when he was in, and the minute he came out, they started attacking the basket, we don't rebound as well, we don't really have that game-changing person in the paint," Heaphy said.
Sanogo's imposing presence in the post is something Taconic fans have become accustomed to seeing over the years. Something less familiar was the stat line for fellow senior and 1,000-point scorer Isaac Percy, who was scoreless at the half.
But the fact that Taconic led by double digits without its leading scorer putting a mark in the scorebook was an encouraging sign.
"Longmeadow did a great job loading up on [Percy], and we knew they would," Heaphy said. "I said to Isaac: You've really got to be a facilitator. You've got to let the game come to you, but when two or three guys are around you, someone's open.
"We had some other guys step up. I thought Sam Sherman was terrific when he went in the game."
Sophomore Sherman gave Taconic big minutes off the bench, including a second-half 3-pointer and a big play under the basket where he saved an offensive rebound on the baseline and fed Percy for bucket in the post.
Percy ended up with eight points. Sean Harrigan and Bo Bramer scored seven apiece.
"Bo's just very composed and has a high IQ," Heaphy said. "He knows what to run. He's a very good floor leader out there for us."
Of course, it did not hurt to have senior leaders on and off the court like Percy and Sanogo, who have extensive post-season resumes.
"We tell [the younger players] to keep their heads in the game," Sanogo said. "Play hard. Do not let the crowd get into your head because that crowd can really have a great influence when you're playing."