Davis, Gittens lead Taconic boys to win over Pittsfield, and sweep of the city rivalry series
The difference this particular Friday, was that they were high school seniors wearing Taconic jerseys and there were actual defenders flooding the paint trying to stop them.
Everything Pittsfield High threw at that grown-up duo, and the wider Braves as a whole, coach Bill Heaphy's crew had an answer and emphatic response to.
Taconic slammed the door on the city rivalry series with an 84-62 victory in Friday's War on the Floor nightcap.
"Playing at the Club, it's everyone's home court. Everyone knows the hoops here, everyone can get their shots to fall," said Gittens. "I know Quincy doesn't like the hoops at PHS, so I knew he was going to do a lot tonight."
Gittens scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, and 19 of his 21 in the second half, while Davis spread it out a bit more evenly with nine of his game-high 23 coming after intermission.
"This is home," added Davis.
During that final 16 minutes of action, Taconic (13-3, 5-0 Berkshire North) out-scored Pittsfield by 20 points, and the Braves put on a showcase for the packed house with a 28-point fourth quarter.
"That's all Quentin, being assertive and knowing we want to get the ball to the rim and get to the foul line," said Heaphy. "And he can do that. He picks his spots. That's all his doing.
"And it's his birthday, so it was a good night for him."
The Generals (9-7, 2-3) were the ones with the answers earlier in the evening, battling back from a 28-15 deficit to tie the game at 33 a piece with one minute, 50 seconds left in the second quarter.
Coach Brandon Mauer's boys withstood a 3-point barrage by Davis, who made it 25-15 with a triple early in the second, and then dropped in another for good measure to the delight of one half of the Club's bleachers.
But Pittsfield, still hunting for a 10th win and a return to the Western Massachusetts tournament after narrowly missing out a year ago, had its own fan section to please.
Kymani Harley got himself to the line for a pair with 5:30 left in the half. The junior wing's first points in two weeks ignited his teammates, and Craig Jackson (16 points) came off the bench to impose his will on the Braves defense. Jackson scored 11 straight for Pittsfield, forcing Gittens' third personal foul before sinking two free throws to draw the Generals within 31-30. A minute later, fellow reserve D'Andre Johnson put down a 3-pointer off a Harley kick to knot things at 33.
"We just need to keep our intensity. We came out really strong. Our focus was to get out there and show them that we're not easy to be taken down," said Jackson, who was 8 of 8 from the foul line. "Coach has been helping me, working on my shot. I'm just trying to show what I can do."
In the meantime, Taconic's temperature had plummeted from downtown. But, when a door closes on this deep Braves squad, there's still two or three open windows. In the final minute, junior big Mohamed Sanogo (15 points) got to the rim twice, scoring on a Christian Womble feed and then polishing off a miss to step Taconic back in front 35-33 at halftime.
"That's all we talked about at halftime. We needed to be in a game like this, a close, tight game," said Heaphy. "We haven't had many, but how are you going to respond?"
Gittens opened the second half with a triple, but that was the last time Taconic hoisted up an outside shot for the remainder of the period. Instead, Gittens and Davis went about their acrobatic, contact-absorbing layup line, combining for 11 points in the frame.
"Just needed to get our shots back going. Go inside, and that will allow us to open it back up," said Davis. "Maybe a little up-fake, go by. Just had to get the defense off their feet."
When Pittsfield did manage to collapse the zone and Harley heated up from long range to cut it back within 42-39, the Braves started finding forward Isaac Percy (18 points) in pockets. The junior stroked four mid-range twos, forcing the lead back out to 10 at 56-46 through three quarters.
"We really needed to get inside and get good baskets. They were hanging on and really matching some of Quincy's threes," said Gittens. "We really needed to put them away. We went zone to slow them down and I was able to get inside and create."
Percy went to the bench with his fourth personal foul, 30 seconds into the final frame, so Gittens, Davis and Sanogo shifted gears again and started attacking to get to the foul line. Taconic shot nine free throws in the fourth, three of which came on a trio of and-one opportunities by Gittens, who converted the latter two while serenaded with Happy Birthday by the rival student section. His final three-point play came with two minutes remaining, and in a blink Taconic led 79-58.
With four games left, the Generals will have their next shot at punching a tournament ticket against Drury at home on Tuesday.
"We have to keep pushing the ball and really just trust each other as a team," said Jackson. "That first and second quarter we came out as a team. I think we just need to keep that intensity and put our eyes on that next game."
On that same night, Taconic will host a Wahconah team that is 5-1 in the North, with that lone loss coming at the hands of the Braves in Dalton.
Moorer 4-1-10, Johnson 2-0-5, Kouao 0-0-0, Higuera 0-0-0, Cruz 2-0-4, Jackson 3-8-16, Cracolici 3-0-6, Harley 2-3-9, Thompson 0-0-0, Mendez 0-0-0, Matthews 2-3-8, Frinks 1-0-2, Young 1-0-2. Totals 20-14-62.
Moody 1-0-3, Cross 1-0-2, Womble 0-0-0, Gittens 8-4-21, Wright 0-0-0, Davis 9-0-23, Lazits 0-0-0, Tayi 0-0-0, Percy 8-1-18, McCown 1-0-2, Sanogo 5-5-15. Totals 33-10-84.
Pittsfield 14 19 13 16 — 62
Taconic 20 15 21 28 — 84
3-point goals — P 7 (Harley 2, Jackson 2, Johnson, Moorer, Matthews); T 8 (Davis 5, Moody, Gittens, Percy).
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.