Taconic Girls Fall by Two in D5 Tourney

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Phoebe Carroll sank a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left Friday to give the Hopedale girls basketball team a 50-48 win over Taconic in the Division 5 State Tournament.
Carroll scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 25 rebounds to lead 18th-seeded Hopedale into a Sweet 16 matchup with Springfield International Charter.
No. 15 Taconic (6-14) led by as many as nine points in the first half, but neither team built more than a two-possession lead most of the second half.
The Thunder took its last lead with 2 minutes left when Ahna Balcom scored in the post to put her team ahead, 47-46.
After the teams traded empty trips, Carroll scored with 1:10 on the clock to give Hopedale a 48-47 lead.
The next time down the floor, Taconic’s Brenna McNeice was fouled and made the first of her two free throws to tie the game.
Alex Hudson pulled down a defensive rebound on Hopedale’s next possession. But Taconic could not get a basket at the other end; Carroll grabbed the miss, and the visitors called timeout with 23 seconds on the clock.
Sixteen seconds later, she grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled attempting to put it back.
Carroll converted both shots to provide the game’s final points.
“She’s tough,” Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. “She played a good game. She put the ball in the basket. They all look for her. The team kind of revolves around her, and she made the shots.”
Taconic, which took a timeout between Carroll’s free throws, was able to get the ball into the frontcourt, but Carroll altered the Thunder’s shot in the paint, and the buzzer sounded before either team could get possession off the miss.
“There’s not much you can draw up with seven seconds and you’ve got to go full court,” Mickle said.
Early on, Taconic’s 3-point shooting helped it control the game in a low-scoring first half.
Four different players connected from behind the arc before half-time.
Hudson started the game with a triple, and Balcom hit a 3-pointer in a 9-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters and gave Taconic a 16-7 lead.
Hopedale trimmed that margin to five points at half-time, but its offense really came alive in the third quarter, when Carroll scored 11 points to help her team outscore Taconic, 19-15, and get within a point heading to the fourth.
Taconic, which was involved in just two close games all season – wins by five points over Westfield and one point over West Springfield – went toe-to-toe with Hopedale in the fourth, pulling ahead briefly by four and answering an 8-0 run by the visitors to go back ahead, 45-44 on a Hudson and-one with 3:38 left to play.
“I thought we played with some composure,” Mickle said. “They just made big shots, and we needed to make one more.”
Hudson finished with a team-high 18 points. McNeice and Balcom added 12 and 11, respectively. Balcom also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
Hudson, McNeice and Balcom are among seven seniors on Taconic’s roster.
“Some of these kids have been with us four years, some were on a State Championship team,” Mickle said. “They’ve won a couple of Western Mass titles and all had good careers. Unfortunately, this game didn’t end the way we were hoping, but I’m certainly proud of them.
“I thought they’ve all developed. I thought we caught a couple of bad breaks, losing a couple of players this year. We obviously could have used them coming down the stretch here, but it kind of is what it is. It’s kind of how sports go.”
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