Taconic Girls Win on Hall of Fame Day

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- On a day when Berkshire County's girls basketball community honored some of its all-time greats, Nyanna Slaughter played a "hall" of a game.
Slaughter scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds Saturday to lead Taconic to a 53-41 win over Lee.
Eleven former players, two coaches and an official were permanently recognized for their contributions to the game in the
Hall's second class. Saturday's list included four-time all-Western Mass selection Maureen Michaels of host Taconic and two members of the Lee family: three-time Western Mass Champion A.J. Skowron and legendary coach Tom Cinella, who led the Wildcats to six state titles.
This year's edition of the Lee High girls (3-12) woke up some of those not-so-distant echoes in the first half on Saturday, knocking down three 3-pointers in the first quarter and going to the locker room with a 21-18 lead.
But Taconic made some adjustments at the half.
"It's been the same old story for us, coming out with energy, and unfortunately we didn't come out with it early," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. "I thought we really kind of turned it up in the second.
"We definitely talked about getting the ball inside to Nyanna. She's a big part of what we're doing. Luckily we hit some shots, too. We did a much better job of rebounding overall, and moving the basketball on offense was key for us, too."
Taconic (8-9) wasted no time putting the game plan into effect.
On the first possession of the second half, Makenzie Astore fed Slaughter from the top of the key, and the senior center posted up for a basket and a foul. Her conventional three-point play tied the game at 21-21.
Lee pulled back ahead with five straight points, but then Taconic went on a 10-0 run that included three putbacks by Slaughter, who had 11 points in the third quarter alone.
But the Wildcats were not about to go down swinging.
Karli Retzel sank a long two just before the end of the quarter to make it 36-30, and Nikki Laudon knocked down a down a 3 to make it a one-score game on Lee's first possession of the fourth.
Taconic answered on its next trip when junior center Brianna Rogers posted up for a three-point play to make it 39-33.
But Laudon came up with two steals and two buckets to again make it a one-possession game with six minutes left.
Down the stretch, Taconic got stops at one end and points in the paint at the other end: a putback by Shea Hassett, two buckets in the post by Shalee Conyers and four more points from Slaughter to put the game out of reach.
Conyers finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two of Taconic's six blocks to help her team establish its dominance inside. Even the one 3-pointer on Taconic's side of the scorebook in the second half came on a pass out of the post from Slaughter to Cornee Clemons.
Despite picking up its fifth-straight loss, the Wildcats showed signs of the kind of team it will be down the road. First-year head coach Jenna Gangell graduates no seniors and carries five freshmen on her seven-player varsity lineup.
"We're getting better," Gangell said. "From the start of the season to where we were today, man, I'm so proud of these girls. We were just running, and we're hustling, and playing so scrappy. It's taken us 14 games, but I think we're finally starting to click. We're starting to figure out who likes to go where and all that stuff.
"Every game is a learning experience."
For Taconic, which starts three seniors, the future is now, and a lot is at stake in the near future.
"We've got to take two of the last three [to make the tournament]," Mickle said. "They're going to be difficult games. We've got Hampden Charter on Tuesday, Drury for Senior night on Friday and then Monument Tuesday. They're all going to be tough
"I know we can play with all three. It could go either way. The girls know what's at stake, especially the seniors. We were 4-16 my first year here, 2-18 last year. It's a huge goal for us to get to the tournament this year."
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