PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- In the first quarter Saturday at Taconic, the Pittsfield girls basketball team stayed in the game by converting its free throws.
In the fourth quarter, the Generals won the game by doing the same thing.
Peyton Steinman scored 23 points, and Pittsfield went 9-for-9 at the line in the fourth to hand Taconic a 58-51 loss and clinch a berth in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament.
Steinman shot 4-for-4 and PHS went 8-for-8 at the charity stripe in the first quarter to stay close to Taconic, which led by as many as four before settling for a 12-10 lead after the first eight minutes.
An hour later, in the final minute of the game, Steinman and Alexis Garvey (14 points, 11 rebounds) each converted both ends of one-and-ones to score the game’s final four points and put away Pittsfield’s fifth straight win.
“Peyton was struggling from the outside, Bella [Aitken] was struggling from the outside, even Lexi [Garvey] was struggling from the inside at times, though she did make some key hoops,” Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. “You keep preaching free throws. One day they’re going to save you, and one day they’re going to kill you.”
Pittsfield (10-6) looked poised to run away with its second double-digit win of the season over its city rival when it went on a 10-0 run midway through second quarter.
Garvey scored twice, and Steinman had two lay-ups in transition, a steal and an assist during the run, which started with Pittsfield trailing by four and ended with the Generals ahead, 20-14.
But Taconic (5-12) refused to go away.
The hosts answered with a 6-0 spurt of their own that started and ended with buckets by Ashley Rufo (team-high 22 points).
Pittsfield scored the next six, but Brittany Henault knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Taconic into the locker room down by just three, 26-23.
Neither side could get ahead by more than four points in the third quarter as they traded the lead back and forth.
Taconic went to the fourth up, 41-39, but Garvey scored in the post, and Jordyn Lummus put back a rebound and earned a conventional three--point play to give Pittsfield an early 44-41 lead in the fourth.
“Give some credit to the young freshman who basically stole the ball and made a basket and basically busted her tail,” Racicot said. “Jordyn [Lummus] has been working hard all year, not the the others haven’t, but she was a little spark plug that we needed in that second half. Give the kid a lot of credit.”
Garvey, a sophomore, also was key on a team that is proving more and more that it has more to offer than its lone senior, the program’s all-time leading scorer, Steinman.
“Lexi’s coming,” Racicot said. “To have that presence on the inside, it gives the girls on the outside an opportunity to score, and a target to hit inside. If she’s a little more patient, she’s going to be a lot better.”
Shalee Conyers (seven points, 12 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 44-44, but Pittsfield went on an 8-2 run to lead by six with 1 minute, 10 seconds on the clock when Steinman drove the lane to make it 52-46.
Conyers then was fouled and hit both ends of a one-and-one. Aitken scored to make it 54-48, and Janee Walker hit a triple with an assist from Jasmine Rodriguez to make it a one score game, 54-51, with half a minute to play.
Taconic was forced to foul, and Steinman hit a pair. And after Garvey garnered a defensive rebound, she was fouled with 14 seconds on the clock. She hit both to make it a seven-point margin.
Pittsfield travels to Great Barrington to face Monument Mountain on Tuesday.
Taconic looks to break a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday at home against Drury.