North Middlesex girls hoops ends Taconic's season in W. Mass. D-II tourney
TOWNSEND -- The turnaround season for the Taconic girls basketball team ended Saturday night.
The seventh-seeded Braves couldn't contain North Middlesex 6-foot-2 freshman Erin Antosh in the fourth quarter of a 52-38 loss to the No. 2-seeded Patriots in the Western Mass. Division II tournament quarterfinals Saturday night.
Taconic, which hammered 10th-seeded Springfield Commerce 66-19 earlier in the week, ended its season at 11-11 a year after finishing 2-18.
North Middlesex improved to 17-4 with the triumph and will advance to a Division II semifinal against Ludlow at the Curry Hicks Cage later this week.
Antosh scored a game-high 20 for the Patriots, who play in the predominantly Division I Mid-Wach A Conference in Central Mass. North Middlesex is the easternmost team participating in the Western Mass. sectional, thanks to last year's realignment.
Of her 20 points, Antosh scored 10 of them in the fourth quarter while teammate Mackensey Farina sat on the bench after acquiring her fourth foul three minutes from the end of the third.
The kicker? Antosh had four fouls as well.
"Between her and Farina, they're just good players," said Taconic coach Matt Mickle. "They got her a few open looks. When Mackensey went out of the game, we switched to a straight zone because we were playing a diamond-and-one on Mackensey all game, and I think we over-pursued a few times going out to the perimeter, and that left [Antosh] open."
North Middlesex (17 of 52 from the field) also switched to a zone. It held a slim 26-23 lead at the half before it outscored the Braves 11-4 in the third. In fact, Taconic only hit one bucket in that stanza as the Braves went ice cold from the field in the second half (4 of 18).
Taconic finished 12 of 42 from the field overall, and was 4 of 18 from the field in the second half.
"Switching to the zone confused them a bit," North Middlesex head coach Pat Murphy said of his team's defense. "We closed out on [Angela O'Neil, 10 points], finally, to shut her down."
"Their zone gave us a ton of problems," Mickle admitted.
After a pair from the line to start the quarter, Antosh scored a 15-footer out an outside-inside pass from Brittani Leblanc to make it 41-27 Pats. Less than a minute later, Julia Murray (six points, 10 rebounds) scored a baseline jumper on a Leblanc helper to make it 43-38.
On the next two Patriot trips, Leblanc fed Antosh for a pair of short-range jumpers that put the Patriots out to a 47-29 advantage.
Taconic's Cortnee Clemons (10 points) tried to spark a comeback with a couple of 3-pointers and a jumper inside to cut the deficit to 12 at 49-37, but that was as close as the Braves -- who traveled a little less than three hours for this affair -- could get.
The Patriots led 13-9 after the first, but Taconic managed to make an 11-2 run to take a 20-17 lead that lasted for about two minutes. A trey by Clemons and a pair of hoops by Kirsten McNeice sandwiched a 4-of-6 effort from the line as Taconic's defense stepped up and denied the Patriots the goal.
"She played great tonight. I was proud of Cortnee," Mickle said. "She's a role player who shoots the ball. She played with great confidence at times, and a few shots between her and Angela didn't fall."
In fact, the two points North Middlesex scored in the run came from the stripe, thanks to Antosh.
Farina ended the 3:21 scoreless skid on an inbound.
North Middlesex then closed the half on a 9-3 run, with Farina, Murray and Leblanc scoring.
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