NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Taconic boys basketball team Thursday took Drury’s best shot, got up off the canvas and claimed a title belt.
After squandering a nine-point third quarter lead and trailing with less than two minutes on the clock, Taconic scored the game’s last seven points to earn a 62-56 win and a Berkshire County North Division Championship.
Devon Walker scored 20 points, and Brett Murphy scored 12 with 13 rebounds as Taconic (17-3) finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak heading into Western Massachusetts tournament Selection Saturday.
But with time winding down, it looked like Drury (17-3) would be able to pull off a season sweep of its own and extend its six-game winning streak after Hayden Bird put back an offensive rebound with just more than two minutes left to cut Taconic’s lead to 55-54 and, moments later, Reece Racette drove the wing for a bucket that gave the Blue Devils a 56-55 lead.
“It's always intense here,” Walker said. “It always goes back and forth. We just happened to keep our momentum going, stayed on track and got the 'W.' “
Taconic coach Bill Heaphy agreed that “staying on track” was the key for his team in the closing minutes.
“I just told them we were fine,” Heaphy said. “We're fine. We've got to rebound, play defense and make some shots. But not to panic, just to relax a little bit. And they responded.”
On Taconic’s next possession after Racette put the Devils up by one, Jack Cooney knocked down a 3-pointer to put his team ahead, 58-56.
Murphy then got the ball back by scrambling for a defensive rebound and tying up the ball with the possession arrow favoring Taconic with 31 seconds on the clock.
Deonte Sandifer earned a trip to the line with 25 seconds left and hit both ends of a one-and-one to extend the lead to 60-56. Then on Drury’s ensuing possession, Walker grabbed a defensive rebound and got fouled with 7.9 seconds on the clock.
He hit one free throw to make it a five-point lead. And after another Drury miss and Taconic rebound, Murphy went to the line, where he scored the game’s final point with a couple of ticks left.
Sandifer scored 11 points and passed out three assists, Cooney scored 10 and Mestre scored seven with 10 rebounds for Taconic, which displayed the kind of balance Heaphy is hoping for going into the tournament.
“[Cooney was] huge, and Jack's been shooting the ball well lately,” Heaphy said. “He's had double figures in, I think, our last two games. And he's growing more and more confident as an option. He's shooting it with confidence, now, so we really need that.
“[Walker has] been playing well, too. He played well the last game. He's played well. And we're trying to get more balance and not have it be a one- or two-man shot. To have him, Murph and Cooney to offset whatever Deonte [Sandifer] and Izaiya [Mestre] do makes us a little harder to guard.”
Walker really caught fire in the first half, scoring 19 points before intermission.
“I was feeling it a little,” he said. “I was feeling it the last game, too. I just came in and tried to keep it going and stay hot.”
Taconic opened an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter before Drury closed on an 8-3 run to trail by six, 32-26, in the locker room.
“It takes a little while for our pressure to get to their legs a little bit, and I thought as the game went on their legs started to go a little bit,” Drury coach Jack Racette said. “But we got beat on the boards. That was our No. 1 thing. We competed, but we got beat.”
Taconic finished with 46-35 edge on the glass with Murphy and Mestre finishing in double figures for rebounding.
Scott McGuire grabbed 11 caroms for Drury, which got 17 points and five assists from Reece Racette and 13 and 10 points, respectively, from Bird and Connor Meehan.
Both coaches agreed that the final game of the regular season had a playoff feel.
“Absolutely a playoff atmosphere,” Jack Racette said. “Two good teams going at it, a lot at stake.
To split with Taconic in the regular season for us is a good thing. You never want to lose, but when you split with Pittsfields, Taconics, Hoosacs, Wahconahs, that's why Berkshire County basketball is good.
“You really want to protect your home court. When we went down there and got a win there, you knew they were going to come here gunning.”