PITTSFIELD -- Solid footwork and positioning are important parts of a post player’s game in basketball. Mastering those two elements can negate taller, stronger players down low.
For Pittsfield’s girls, proper technique will be important when facing off against Longmeadow’s go-to post player, Taj Lewis, in tonight’s Western Mass. Division II semifinal. Tip-off time is 6 p.m. at the Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst.
One way to keep Lewis from hurting you is to play in front of her, denying her a chance to receive the ball in the post.
"We teach a step-over move with a half-front. It seems to work pretty well," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. "Sometimes with a girl that size it’s hard to get around her."
Lewis is a lefty. She likes to catch the ball on the right block, and turn to her dominant hand.
Another way Pittsfield will look to stop Lewis is to keep her from getting the ball in places she’s comfortable.
"It’s a matter of keeping her out of her comfort zone," Racicot said, "making them go through two or three players, and not just one."
Longmeadow beat Pittsfield 64-49 when the teams played Jan. 9 at Pittsfield.
Lewis scored 17, but Teagan Northrup led the Lancers with 22.
Racicot said he was happy with they way his team contained Ally Mishol, one of Longmeadow’s other top scorers. Foul shooting and staying out of foul trouble will be areas to improve in their second meeting.
"We need to give our all and stay out of foul trouble," junior Lauren Carnevale said. "That was a huge thing for us. As long as we stay out of foul trouble, make our shots and make our foul shots, we’ll be good."
Carnevale, along with sophomore Allie Hunt, will draw the assignment of guarding Lewis down low. The pair might give up some strength to Lewis, but Racicot said Carnevale’s positioning allows her to score, defend and rebound at high level.
"Lauren’s a good position player. She can get her body in there," Racicot said. "I don’t know how she does it. ... I think it’s just within her. She’s got a big heart when it comes to rebounding. She knows that’s her job and she does it well."
Since the two teams met, the Generals feel they’ve improved as a team. Freshman guard Peyton Steinman said her greatest area of improvement has come on the defensive end.
"I’m lazy at times, but I’ve definitely gotten better over the season," she said. "After practicing against our team and our offense, I’ve definitely gotten better."
"We were standing around a lot, but our help defense has come around too," Racicot added. "Now that we’re doing that, the kids realize that no matter what defense you play, it all comes down to the basics of man-to-man."
The Generals have matured throughout the season. But playing at the neutral Curry Hicks Cage will be different from their previous home matchup against the Lancers.
"It’s a matter of who hits their comfort zone first," Racicot said. "We’ve got to see who shoots well at that court. It’s not like we’re pros. It’s hit or miss. Whoever has got the hot hand, you’ve got to ride that."
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.