PITTSFIELD -- On the current Taconic High School basketball roster, only Drew Scace has had experience playing deep into the Western Massachusetts tournament and playing at the Curry Hicks Cage, playing in the Division II final in 2011 as a freshman.
Soon, that will change. The Braves led wire-to-wire Thursday night and defeated Mahar 57-50 in the D-II quarterfinals at Taconic High School.
Taconic (13-8) will play top seed Greenfield in the semifinals at the Cage in Amherst. Greenfield defeated Palmer 59-20 Thursday.
Taconic put the Senators (15-6) against the ropes early in the first quarter. A pair of Shaq Ardrey threes and a behind-the-back dish to Trayvon Sims for a layup gave the Braves a 14-0 lead with 2:27 remaining in the first.
Braves coach Bill Heaphy sought to put pressure early on Mahar by extending the defense and forcing long possessions.
"We started out with a 2-2-1 [defense] just to slow things down," he said. "I liked our half-court defense in the first half. I thought we were playing very well limiting them to one shot."
The Braves went to halftime with a 10-point lea, but Mahar soon began to pick up its offensive pace, and a pair of layups by Josef Whitman would leave the Senators trailing 32-29 with 1:57 remaining in the third quarter. Taconic would respond with a 3-point play from Sims and a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Sims to stretch the lead back to 8.
Mahar would continue to make noise in the fourth quarter, but the Braves never allowed the lead to dip below 6, and would seal the game with 2:16 remaining, as Sims buried a three in the corner to extend the lead to 51-40.
"We threw the ball away a few times and made it closer than it should have been," he said. "These are things that we obviously still need to work on."
Ardrey led the Braves with 27 points and 7 rebounds. Heaphy said that his play was the key to the Braves' victory.
"He played super and was focused the whole game," the coach said. "That's what we really needed."
Sims added 11 points for the Braves, while Scace scored 8 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Whitman paced the Senators with 25 points and 9 rebounds, and Brendin Woodward added 10.