PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The Taconic girls basketball team Monday used an 11-0 run midway through the third quarter to put away Palmer and advance to the Division 5 State Quarter-Finals with a 56-42 win.
Alihya Phillips scored 23 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, and Brenna McNeice scored 14 as fifth-seeded Taconic improved to 14-9 in its quest to get back to defend the state title it earned in the COVID-shortened 2020 state tournament.
Madison Winn’s bucket in the opening minutes gave Taconic the lead for good at 5-4, and the Green and Gold led by 10 at half-time.
But all doubt was erased with the 11-0 spurt that took less than two minutes after a sluggish start to the third quarter.
It was 31-22, Taconic, with just five points scored between the teams with more than four minutes gone in the second half.
Alex Hudson (eight points) hit a 3-pointer to ignite the decisive run, which included transition baskets off turnovers from Phillips and Amelia Leasure, the latter with an assist from McNeice to make it 42-22.
“I think we needed to stay disciplined on defense,” Taconic coach Matt Mickle said of his half-time adjustments. “I thought we were a little undisciplined in the first half. We were kind of out of position a lot. And we needed to stick to where they’re supposed to be and let the defense take care of itself.
“And I thought it did.”
One constant in the game for Taconic was rebounding, where it earned a 53-33 advantage behind double-digit rebounders Phillips, Winn (12 boards) and Faith Cross (10).
“I thought we did a great job on the boards,” Mickle said. “We took some bad shots in the first half, and the goal after we went to half-time was let’s get a good shot and then go get it. I thought we did a great job in the first half in the first half rebounding.
“I don’t know what happened in the second half, but I thought we did a really good job on the boards all night on the offensive glass.”
Madalyn Theriault led Palmer with 15 points and nine rebounds. Charlotte Theriault scored 11.
Taconic (14-9) won its fifth-straight game and advances to the Elite Eight, where it will face either No. 4 Millis on the road or 20th-seeded St. Bernard’s at home. Either game is tentatively scheduled for Friday evening. Millis and St. Bernard’s play on Tuesday.
Mickle said that Taconic, which closed the regular season with a 1-3 stretch, was well prepared going into the Western Massachusetts and state tournaments.
“I’m hoping the season prepared us for this,” he said. “So far it has, but we’ve still got some work to do. Our season was difficult. We were in a ton of close games – not always on the right side of the close games, but I thought it prepared us for this. As we move on, we’re going to have games that are two-point, three-point, four-point games, and I’m hoping the experience of the regular season is going to help us in the tournament.
“I still have a ton of respect for our [old] Berkshire North league, but that’s behind us. There’s no question we’re playing the [in the Valley League], mostly Division 1 and 2 teams that all play really good defense, make you work every single night. It didn’t matter what the number of points were, you knew you were in a dogfight when you were in our league this year – and in our independent schedule.
“We played Wahconah, Hoosac, Pittsfield High twice. … I think it’s helped us for this moment. We still have three more we want to get to, and hopefully it happens.”