Pittsfield Ends Drought Against Taconic

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. – For the first time since 2016, the hottest boys basketball team in town wears purple.
After six long years and 14 losses, Pittsfield Monday earned a 67-52 win over Taconic at the Boys and Girls Club.
“We think about that every day,” Generals senior Da’Sean Brown said of the losing streak as his team continued to celebrate the victory.
Brown was one of four Generals who scored in double figures, accounting for 15 points.
Makai Shepardson led the offense with 18 points, and Carter Mungin had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Pittsfield led wire-to-wire, jumping out to a 14-2 lead, holding off a Taconic comeback in the third quarter that cut the margin to three points and rebuilding its double-digit lead down the stretch as the Generals won their fifth straight and improved to 6-2 this winter.
“When we took this job, the first thing we said was, ‘We have to take back the city,’ “ Pittsfield first-year coach Jerome Edgerton said. “Taking back the city is beating the green team. They’re tough, they’re strong, they’re mentally tough, they’re physically tough. They’re champions.
“That’s the measuring stick for us, and we had a goal. And we won’t stop until we reach our goals, definitely.”
Monday’s rematch at the Club had eerie echoes of the Generals’ season opener, when they jumped on top early against the Thunder, which has gone to three state title games (winning a co-championship in the COVID-shortened 2020 tournament) since the last time it lost a city rivalry game.
But back in December, Taconic quickly climbed out of an 18-5 hole, led by one at half-time and won the game by 20.
This time, Pittsfield answered a five-point Taconic spurt at the start of the second quarter by scoring nine straight points to take a 29-11 lead.
Shepardson scored six points in the run, which ended when he fed Brown in transition for a bucket to open the game’s biggest margin, an 18-point bulge, midway through the second quarter.
Taconic answered with four straight, sending Mungin out of the game with his third personal foul with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left until half-time.
But Shepardson drove for a bucket  and ended the half by assisting Brown in transition on one of Taconic’s seven second-quarter turnovers.
“I thought [Pittsfield] was ready from the start, and we weren’t,” Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said. “I thought we were way too passive, played with no force. And it cost us. They were able to maintain it and keep the momentum.
“We had some moments where we were able to come back and cut it to a two-possession game. But we couldn’t make the plays when we really needed to, and were sloppy with the ball, couldn’t make free throws.”
Taconic played its best ball to start the third quarter.
Buckets by Jamal Sistrunk bookended an 8-0 run that included four points from Tayvon Sandifer (game-high 19) to nearly cut in half an 18-point half-time deficit in fewer than two minutes.
Taconic then chipped away at the margin, drawing within three when Christian Maturevich (11 points) scored in transition to make it 38-35 moments after Mungin picked up his fourth personal foul.
“We just had to slow down,” Brown said. “We couldn’t react to them scoring or going on a run, because we knew it was going to happen. We just had to dig deep and keep fighting.”
James DiFillippo scored in the post to make it a two-possession game, and Brown knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight points, where it stood after three quarters.
Pittsfield opened the fourth with a Keanu Arce-Jackson bucket from the right wing and a pair of DiFillippo free throws to go ahead, 49-37 just more than a minute into the quarter.
Taconic never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
DiFillippo, who had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, scored all of his points in the second half, much of that with Mungin on the bench. The Pittsfield starting center ultimately fouled out with 3:20 left and the team up, 56-45.
DiFillippo came into Monday’s game with just three points on the season.
Edgerton sounded like a coach who was not surprised to see the senior step up in what could be his last chance to beat Taconic.
“We call him Jimbo,” Edgerton said. “Jimmy works hard every single day in practice, and that’s what we’re seeing. … After our last loss, we had a little turmoil on our team. And the very first person, him and another young man, at practice was Jimmy.
“That set the tone for Jim. Jim knew he had to be ready, and he was ready. And he stepped up big. I’m so proud of that young man. How he just got mobbed [in the team room] with the water, it was just a beautiful sight to see. That young man works hard every day.”
Pittsfield will look to carry Monday’s momentum into a home game at Pittsfield High on Thursday against Agawam.
Taconic (7-2) will take some time off from games and look to bounce back at home against Chicopee Comp on Jan. 18.
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