WILLIAMSTOWN — Behind another monster effort from Jenna Benzinger, the Mount Greylock girls basketball team was able to battle out of a first-quarter hole for a 49-42 win over Taconic on Tuesday night.
The junior center for Greylock (5-4) went for 20 points and 21 rebounds, and every point was critical to helping the Mounties pull out the win.
"I thought Benzinger was the difference tonight," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. "We didn't have an answer for her, unfortunately, and it seemed like she made everything she threw up there, too."
The Braves (2-6) came out as the hotter team in the first quarter, putting up a 15-7 lead on a Jasmine Rodriguez (9 points) bucket off an Ashley Rufo steal.
"Taconic is a very physical and hard northern team that comes in here knowing they are going to be able to compete with us," Greylock coach John Jacobbe said. "They battled us, and we didn't handle it well from the get-go."
The Mounties cut the deficit to 15-11 after a quarter on buckets by Lauren Howard (6 points) and Benzinger, and in the second quarter Greylock answered a quick 3-0 burst by Taconic with a 10-3 run over the final 2:22 of the quarter to take a 23-21 lead into the break. Greylock nearly led by five after Ari Walden (13 points) scored on a drive, but Rufo was able to can a halfcourt buzzer-beater.
The momentum from Rufo's shot, though, dissipated at the break, and out of halftime Greylock took command of the game by outscoring Taconic 11-4 over the first three minutes.
"I think we started out [the second half] slow," Mickle said. "Every time we tried to make a run at them they got a couple more hoops."
The run was necessary. Taconic responded to the ebb-and-flow game with a strong push out to cut the deficit to 38-35 on a finish by Rodriguez, and Greylock's lead was just 42-38 going into the fourth.
Taconic kept the game at a four-point difference on a free throw from Maddy Quinto (12 points) with 3:34 to go, but Greylock refused to break down the stretch.
Benzinger scored 13 of her game-high 20 in the second half, including five of the team's seven in the fourth. She assisted on the other basket, running a nifty give-and-go with Walden for an easy finish. With time winding down, Benzinger then produced a block to seal the win for good.
"I felt like the energy was good on the team," Benzinger said. "Everything just fell into place. [Taconic] didn't have much height, which was a positive for me because I was able to get some good looks.
Walden added four assists and five rebounds to her tally, while Benzinger finished with two blocks. For Taconic, Quinto had five boards and three steals. Janee Walker finished with nine points and five steals for the Braves.
Taconic is back in action today at home against Lee, while Greylock is off until Friday, when they welcome Lee to town.
Walker 3-2-9, Quinto 5-1-12, Gittens 1-0-2, Rufo 3-1-8, Rodriguez 4-0-9, Paris 1-0-2, Henault 0-0-0, Valentine 0-0-0, Lazits 0-0-0. Totals 17-4-42.
MOUNT GREYLOCK (49)
Walden 6-0-13, Flynn 2-0-4, E. Cerveira 2-0-4, Stripp 1-0-2, Howard 2-1-6, Benzinger 9-2-20, Byrnes 0-0-0, Reinhard 0-0-0, Albert 0-0-0, Dodig 0-0-0. Totals 22-3-49.
3-point goals: MG (Walden, Howard), T (Walker, Quinto, Rufo, Rodriguez).