Photo Gallery | Wahconah clinches postseason spot with win over Taconic
DALTON — The Taconic girls basketball team was ready to make a game out of things in the second quarter against Wahconah on Thursday night.
Wahconah's Ashley Zink, though, had other plans.
With the Braves nipping at the Warriors' heels in the second after a lopsided first, Wahconah's point guard turned up the defensive pressure and picked every pocket she could find, turning in a double-double of points and steals as Wahconah pulled away for a 48-34 win.
"[Zink] created a lot of fast break opportunities where you are just getting layups," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said. "They created turnovers and got layups out of them. I wish we got about 10 or 12 of those, too."
Zink finished with a game-high 17 points and added 10 steals. And while Wahconah coach Liz Kay was thrilled with the defense Zink played, she was equally impressed with how Zink finished at the other end.
"She got the steals, but she made tough layups too," Kay said. "It was a pretty physical game, and her ability to focus on putting the ball in the basket with hands in her face, getting bumped, that sort of thing, was remarkable."
Zink scored four layups off of steals on the defensive end, and added a free throw on her first coast-to-coast effort in the game.
But even with Zink being a menace on defense and Wahconah building up a 15-6 lead after one, Taconic didn't exactly go quietly into the night.
In the second, Taconic cut the lead to five on a bucket by Maddy Quinto (8 points) to make it 19-14, then after a putback by Kelly McMahon (9 points) for Wahconah, Jasmine Rodriguez hit Aubrey Lazits (4 points) for a bucket to make it 21-16.
Wahconah answered with authority, though, as Zink converted one of her steal-and-finishes to push the lead back to seven, and a three by McMahon off a pass from Lily Pudlo got the lead back to double digits. At half, Wahconah led 29-18.
"Our defense is a big part of our team," Zink said. "We focus on that a lot. When we play good defense, it contributes to our offense and really sets the game in motion."
Taconic got the deficit back down to single digits once more in the second half on a bucket by Rodriguez for the first points of the third, but Wahconah did not let the Braves get closer. After three Wahconah led 40-24, and in the fourth Julia O'Connor hauled in an offensive rebound and fired to a streaking McMahon for a bucket that put Wahconah up 48-28.
The win qualifies Wahconah (10-5, 3-3) for the Western Mass. tournament. Afterwards, Zink said it was a relief that her team was able to secure their postseason bid with five games still to go.
"It's a huge relief," Zink said. "It's always nice to get the 10th win earlier in the season. It's nice to play that seeding game, where you play to get a good seed. It's a good relief."
Taconic falls to 4-11 overall and 1-6 in the Berkshire County North.
Pudlo had a game-high 14 rebounds in the win while O'Connor added 12. Taconic's Riana Gittens had eight points and 10 rebounds in the loss, and Quinto finished with eight boards to go with her points. The Braves were a woeful 0 of 8 from the free-throw line in the game while Wahconah shot 8 of 13 at the charity stripe.
Walker 3-0-6, Henault 0-0-0, Valentine 0-0-0, Quinto 4-0-8, Gittens 4-0-8, Rufo 1-0-2, Rodriguez 3-0-6, Paris 0-0-0, Lazits 2-0-4. Totals 7-0-34.
McMahon 4-0-9, Zink 7-3-17, McIlquham 1-3-5, George 0-0-0, Cote 1-2-5, Pudlo 3-0-6, Dougherty 1-0-2, Gagliardi 0-0-0, O'Connor 2-0-4, Gamberoni 0-0-0. Totals 19-8-48.
3-point goals — W 2 (McMahon, Cote).