Photo Gallery | Taconic boys basketball tops Longmeadow on opening night
PITTSFIELD — Both teams had to shake off the first-game rust, but once Taconic's defense settled in, the Braves pulled away beating Longmeadow 64-55 on Thursday. The win avenges Taconic's season-ending loss to the Lancers in first round of the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament last season.
Longmeadow held a two-point lead to start the third quarter. The Lancers started the second half with a basket, but the Braves found their rhythm from distance. Brett Murphy connected from long range, cutting the deficit to one. The teams exchanged baskets before Izaiya Mestre tied the game at 33 with a 3-pointer. He made another trey on the next possession, giving the host the lead with 3 minutes and 45 second left in the third quarter. Taconic would not trail again. Mestre had 17 points and five 3-pointers.
"My teammates kept on hitting me and I guess I was feeling it tonight," Mestre said. "It's not about me, it's about our team. ... We came together as a team and got the W. That's all that really matters."
Mestre's shooting ignited the crowd and his teammates, sparking a 14-3 third-quarter run.
The Braves held Longmeadow to nine points in the third, forcing six turnovers. Full-court pressure caused problems for Lancers' ball-handlers throughout. The visitors struggled to handle Taconic's quickness, losing the turnover battle 17-10.
"[Full-court pressure] is what we've been working on in practice," Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said. "We've got to utilize these guys' speed and quickness. They love to play that way, so we're going to run with it and see what happens."
In the fourth, the Lancers answered with full-court pressure of their own, starting the quarter on a 7-0 run, shrinking Taconic's lead to one. Treyvon Ringgold responded, however, scoring six straight points to ice the game. Ringgold led the Braves with 18 points and 20 rebounds. Five of Ringgold's rebounds came on the offensive end. His work on the boards created second-chance points and, despite giving up several inches to Longmeadow big man Garret Merchant, he more than held his own down low.
"We have a guy Chris Pfeiffer that's the same size [as Merhchant], but he's a little thicker," Ringgold said, "so when it comes to rebounding, I've been practicing with him.
"I'm hard to out-jump. I've been working on my leg muscles, so I can get up to get those boards."
The teams combined for 11 turnovers in an uneven first half. Deonte Sandifer kept the team afloat in the first quarter scoring seven of his 16 points.
Longmeadow's Peter King led all scorers with 25 points.
The Braves showed poise down the stretch, taking the Lancers' best punch and hanging on for victory. Despite the win, Heaphy said his team has plenty to work on.
"We were rushing shots and we took too many early 3's," he said. "We've still got a lot to work on, but for the first game I'm pleased with our effort. [Longmeadow] is a good team."
King 7-7-25, Manzi 2-0-4, Rye 1-2-4, Wernick 2-5-9, Robbins 2-3-7, Marchant 2-1-5. Totals: 15-19-55.
Cotto 1-1-3, Sandifer 6-4-16, Mestre 6-0-17, Stracuzzi 0-0-0, Walker 2-0-4, Cooney 0-0-0, McNeice 0-0-0, Murphy 1-0-3, Ringgold 7-4-18, McIntosh 1-1-3. Totals: 23-10-64.
3-point goals: L 4 (King 4), T 6 (Mestre 5, Murphy 1)