GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Monument Mountain girls basketball team entered Tuesday's game against Taconic in a do-or-die situation.
A win and they're in the Western Mass. tournament; a loss and they're eliminated from contention.
On the team's final possession of a tied game, Kayla Aberdale received the ball on the left wing from Vanessa Troiano and knocked down the eventual game-winner, with a little less than 17 seconds left, for a 33-31 win over Taconic.
The Braves had several looks to tie the game, but their attempts rimmed in and out.
The win gives Monument a tie for second place in the North Division with Drury, and a Western Mass. tournament berth.
"The shot clock was down a little bit, so we had a quick-hitter with a couple different options to give Vanessa and Kayla opportunities," Monument coach Chris Unsworth said. "Kayla found herself with a shot, and she's never hesitant. She knows she's a good shooter and she had the courage to step up there and take the shot."
The Spartans' defense scrapped all night, forcing 27 Taconic turnovers. Their focus was to use double teams to take away the inside presence of Taconic post player Nyanna Slaughter. Slaughter finished with nine points; five of those points came in the first quarter.
Monument led by five with less than five minutes remaining in the game. A constant effort to get Slaughter the ball in the post led to the Braves entering the bonus with 3:51 left. Free throws from Slaughter and Kirsten McNeice put the Braves on a 5-0 run, tying the game at 31 and setting up Aberdale's game-winner.
"The effort was there. We've just got to finish," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. "We didn't score. We had a lot of easy layups that we didn't make, and if you don't score, you don't win."
Slaughter and Brianna Rogers gave the Braves height inside. But the Spartans used solid ball movement and effective screens to negate Taconic's bigs.
In a game that featured seven ties and 13 lead changes, the Spartans continually answered Taconic's best shot.
With 1:10 left in the third, Troiano received a pass at the top of the key off a solid down screen from a teammate and knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 18. Troiano led the Spartans with 11 points. Aberdale had 8.
Unsworth said his team deserves credit for the way it played in such a pressure-filled atmosphere.
"The credit goes to the kids for wanting this so much," Unsworth said. "They wanted badly to be in the tournament, and they weren't going to let one possession affect the next negatively."
In the end, Aberdale's shot gave the Spartans new life. Hunter Cormier said it's a good feeling to continue the season in the tournament.
"We've been wanting this for so long, so we're all so excited and ready to take on Western Mass.," she said. "We don't have the best record, but we think we can go really far and we're excited for that."
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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