Taconic Girls Fall in Western Mass Quarters
TOWNSEND, Mass. -- Thank goodness the Taconic High School girls basketball team's Western Massachusetts quarter-final was moved from Thursday to Saturday.
If Taconic's season had to end -- as it did in a 14-point loss to North Middlesex -- at least its players got to savor a couple more days of a season they never will forget.
"I would have loved to see the seniors get down to the [Curry Hicks] Cage," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said after North Middlesex prevailed, 52-38. "With some of the adversity they went through in their four years here ... there's been a lot that's gone on, like with [senior] Angela and coach [Bob] O'Neil passing away."
Angela O'Neil played her final game in a Taconic uniform on Saturday, scoring 10 points, including a big second-quarter 3-pointer.
"It's tough to say goodbye to this class," Mickle said. "We just talked about that in the locker room. There have probably been more lows than highs, unfortunately. It's been a grind for us the three years I've had them and the other year they were freshmen. To see them get to the tournament was a major goal for us, and I'm extremely happy for the seniors that they got to this point.
"We drove down here, and these guys know who Taconic basketball is when we leave here tonight."
Seventh-seeded Taconic (11-11) gave No. 2 North Middlesex (17-4) all it could handle in the first half.
After falling behind by six early in the second quarter, Taconic stormed back with an 11-2 run to take a three-point lead, 20-17.
Cortnee Clemons (10 points) got things started with a 3 and then sank two foul shots to make it a one-score game. Then Brianna Rogers got to the line for a couple of foul shots to get Taconic within one, 17-16.
After a defensive rebound by Clemons, Kirsten McNeice scored in transition to give Taconic its first lead, 18-17. A Clemons steal then set up a long two-pointer from the right wing for McNeice (eight points) with about 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half.
But the Patriots rallied with a 9-0 spurt of their own, fueled by the considerable post presence of 5-foot-11 senior Mackensey Farina, who, along with 6-2 freshman Erin Antosh, proved to be the difference.
O'Neil hit a triple late in the quarter to get Taconic within three, 26-23, going to the locker room.
North Middlesex delivered a knockout blow in the third, holding Taconic to just for points while Farina and Antosh combined for nine of the Pats' 11.
Farina ended up with 17 on the night, while Antosh scored a game-high 20. Between the two, they nearly matched Taconic's scoring total.
And at the other end of the floor, they shut the door on Taconic's own post players, limiting Nyanna Slaughter to six points and the trio of Slaughter, Rogers and Shalee Conyers to a combined 10 points.
"There were a couple of breaks where we talked about Nyanna getting touches," Mickle said. "There were five possessions, I think, where I don't think she touched the ball. She's gotta touch ball -- I was hoping on every possession.
"But it's hard in that environment for them to hear what I'm saying and kind of get a hold of things. And they got tired. Mentally, I think we were a little tired from working as hard as they did guarding their two big players."
Slaughter, O'Neil, McNeice, Makenzi Astore and Catherine Berry all graduate from the Taconic program after winning one more game this year than it did the previous three combined.
North Middlesex moves on to a Wednesday evening quarter-final against Ludlow at the Cage. The winner of that game will face the winner of Thursday's game between Longmeadow and Pittsfield.