PITTSFIELD >> The Pittsfield boys basketball team entered the Taconic High School gym and withstood the Braves' opening blow, playing with poise and pulling away in the second half for an 81-65 win in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament on Friday. The win gives Pittsfield a 2-1 series win against its cross-town rival. The Generals advance to face No. 1 Shepherd Hill in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Curry Hicks Cage on the UMass Amherst campus.
Taconic started the game on an 8-0 run, but Pittsfield re-grouped, using a Tyrell Boire lay-up just before the buzzer to take a 14-13 lead after one quarter. The visitors did not trail again. Connor McDonough's shooting and Taconic's inability to knock down 3-pointers allowed the Generals to control the game. McDonough led the way with a game-high 23 points, including five 3-pointers.
"It feels great," McDonough said of the victory. "For the past five years it's been 1-1, 1-1 and 1-1 [series]. Now, this year there's a true winner of the city and it feels great that we did that."
McDonough said he knew he'd have his shooting touch after a strong pre-game shootaround. Taconic used a 7-0 run to tie the game at 24 late in the second quarter, but McDonough's fourth trey of the first half regained the lead for the Generals. Brett Murphy answered with a trey to tie, however, a McDonough free throw and Anthony Reinhold's floating jumper at the buzzer put Pittsfield up three at the half.
In the second half, Pittsfield did a great job of closing out on Taconic shooters, while using Josh Moore inside to take away Taconic post player Treyvon Ringgold. With Ringgold not able to establish offense inside, the kick-out pass was eliminated and Taconic's inability to knock down jumpers allowed Pittsfield to clog the lane. Izaiya Mestre and Brett Murphy led Taconic with 12 points each. All of Mestre's points came in the first half. Deonte Sandifer added 11 points.
"It's hard to make up 3's with 2's. Our shots weren't falling and there's were," Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said. "That's the difference and it certainly makes it more difficult. It puts more pressure on us.
"We expected they were going to do what they did [on defense] and we didn't attack it. We settled early for too many outside 3's."
Reinhold closed out the game, showing his quickness when attacking the basket. He finished at the rim with contact or drew the foul. He scored 14 of his 22 points from the foul line. His ability to get a high-percentage shots at will added more pressure to a struggling Braves' offense. The Generals out-scored the Braves 19-8 in the third period.
As the lead increased, the Braves tried to use the 3-pointer to close the gap without success. They shot 5 of 17 from deep in the second half. All five makes came in the fourth when the game was out of reach. Pittsfield led by as many as 23 in the second half. Louis Higuera had 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
"The only person that stopped Anthony all year is himself," Pittsfield coach Steve Ray said. "He's done this the last two times against Taconic, but he didn't do it for the whole game. This time he did it for the full game."
Ray said the team's improved free-throw shooting played a big role in the victory. He added that moving from a 1-3-1 to a 3-2 defense zone helped his team as well. It was the first time the Generals used a 3-2 in Ray's tenure.
As the Generals prepare for a trip to The Cage, Ray said his team is hitting its stride at the perfect time.
"While we recognize we have a big challenge ahead of us, we like our chances," he said. "We're really starting to come together as a team late in the season. Take away a couple games where we really didn't show — other than the two Hoosac [Valley] games — we were right there."
Reinhold 4-14-4-22, McDonough 6-6-23, Moore 3-0-6, Higuera 7-4-19, Nassif 1-4-6, Rodriguez 0-1-1, Ty. Boire 2-0-4. Totals: 23-29-81
Cotto 2-1-7, Sandifer 5-1-11, Mestre 4-3-12, Stracuzzi 1-1-3, McNeice 0-1-1, Murphy 5-0-12, Reardon 2-0-6, Valuski 0-2-2, Ringgold 4-1-9, McIntosh 1-0-2. Totals: 24-10-65
3-point goals — P 6 (McDonough 5, Higuera ). T 7 (Cotto 2, Murphy 2, Reardon 2, Mestre).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252