DALTON, Mass. -- Noelle Furlong knocked down a 3-pointer with just more than three minutes left to play to give the Wahconah girls basketball team a 46-41 lead, and it held on for a 48-45 win Saturday to hand Taconic its first loss of the season.
Furlong scored a game-high 18 points, and Maria Gamberoni added 13 as Wahconah (13-4, 8-4 Berkshire County North Division) avenged a two-point loss at Taconic late last month.
“When Noelle is in attack mode, we are really tough to beat,” Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. “When she gets tentative, we’re easier to defend, obviously.
“But she has played with remarkable composure this year and has really been our X factor in so many ways. So for her to hit those big shots and play so well defensively. I don’t know how many rebounds she had … but that’s just huge with against a team that’s bigger and more physical and generally more athletic than we are. To have her do that is huge, too.”
Furlong pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and passed out three assists. And like the rest of Kay’s team played with the composure down the stretch that comes from seeing five of its last six games decided by six points or fewer.
“Part of it is we didn’t have one or two kids take over,” Kay said of Wahconah’s fourth quarter. “And they played incredibly intelligently defensively. I thought right there at the end, when we were trying to foul because we had fouls to give, they did a really nice job of that. It’s something you practice, but we haven’t had to do it a lot.
“Then even executing and getting the ball inbounds to who we want on the foul line at the end is really big, too.”
Wahconah went into the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, but Taconic (12-1, 11-1) got a pair of free throws from Taea Bramer (team-high 14 points) to trim the deficit to 43-41 with 3 minutes, 40 seconds on the clock.
The next time down the floor, Jilly Cote set up Furlong for a triple to stretch the lead to five.
After the teams traded empty trips, Bramer drove the lane for a bucket to get Taconic back within three points with 2:34 remaining.
Wahconah’s defense clamped down from there, allowing just a Bramer drive with 36 seconds left to make it 46-45.
Taconic’s press forced a turnover on Wahconah’s ensuing possession, but the visitors gave the ball right back on a turnover with 28.5 on the clock.
Gamberoni set up Cote for a basket to provide the final margin, and Wahconah took a timeout with 13 seconds left.
Out of the timeout, Wahconah committed its fifth and sixth personals with 11 seconds and 10 seconds on the clock. Taconic got off a shot with 5 seconds left, but it was off the mark, and Cote grabbed the rebound.
Furlong went to the line with 3.8 seconds remaining and missed the front end, Taconic got the rebound but could not get off a shot.
Offense was lacking all night for Taconic, which is nothing new for opponents of Wahconah this season. Facing a team that came in allowing 32 points per game was not what the doctor ordered for a Taconic team playing its second game in 24 hours.
“[The back-to-back] was a concern,” Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. “But Wahconah played great. They always do. You know you’re in a war when you play them. … You know you’re going to get everything they’ve got.
“And everyone who plays us was coming for us. We don’t have any losses, and people want to beat you.”
As the game went on, the tired legs were evident for Mickle’s squad. It took its share of 3-pointers in the game but made just one -- by Ciany Conyers (13 points) early in the second quarter.
Taconic was ahead at that point thanks to an 8-0 run at the end of the first quarter that ended when Conyers scored in the post to make it 14-8.
Wahconah cut the deficit to one point early in the second, but Taconic went back up by eight when Bramer scored in transition midway through the quarter and went to the locker room ahead, 25-22.
Wahconah took over the game in the third, outscoring Taconic by a margin of 15-8. Gamberoni scored seven of her 13 in that quarter, including a pair at the line late to give her team a 37-33 edge going to the fourth.
Mickle did not want to dwell too much on the fatigue factor but was concerned about the way his team responded when its back was to the wall.
“I was disappointed -- not in our effort but it was more how we handled adversity,” he said. “I didn’t think we handled it very well. I found out a lot about the team, and I’m hoping we correct it the next time we get in a situation like we were just in.”
Kay meanwhile was happy to see her team rise to the challenge of having the county leader in the house.
“If you take a look at the Hoosac game the other night [a 44-41 Hurricanes win], I couldn’t tell you from one game to the next who we are,” Kay said. “It’s just so nice to be able to come in and have great defensive rebounding, better composure with the ball in the second half, different kids stepping up.
“I think it’s a statement win because it came as a group, and it wasn’t one or two people having to take over because someone else can’t. To me, that’s the biggest statement that we made tonight.”
Wahconah hosts Monument Mountain on Monday.
Taconic looks to rebound on Monday when it hosts Hoosac Valley for the second time in a week.