Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: No St. Patrick's Day luck for Taconic in MIAA Division II championship loss
SPRINGFIELD — There would be no comeback. There would be no UMBC-over-Virginia moment for the Taconic boys basketball team on this Saturday afternoon at the MassMutual Center.
The Western Massachusetts-champion Braves came here hoping to be the first Berkshire County boys basketball team to win a state championship since St. Joseph accomplished the goal in 2001.
As much as Taconic wanted to get a second new banner for the gym that opens with the new high school next fall, the young men from Dorchester's TechBoston Academy had the same idea.
Taconic led 2-0 on a hoop by Mohammed Sanogo. It was the only time Taconic led in the game, as TechBoston routed the Braves 78-40.
The lopsided nature of the score was one for the books. But if you were watching the game on Saturday afternoon, the Braves played the final five minutes like it was the first five minutes. A look at the scoreboard told one story. Watching the players in green and gold told another story entirely.
"When they hit the floor, they stayed together and kept playing," Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said to a scrum of reporters after the game. "I'm proud of them for that, because it's tough to do."
Heaphy said that when the Crusaders — a team he was the varsity assistant coach for — won that title in 2001, they did it on St. Patrick's Day. The veteran coach said he had his eye on a little bit of that Luck o' the Irish to help the Braves . Not even a basket full of four-leaf clovers would have helped the Braves in the Birthplace of Basketball.
One quarter was fairly competitive, one where Taconic trailed 10-4. The Braves actually went four minutes without scoring in that quarter, but TechBoston wasn't much better.
The Braves probably played their best eight minutes in the second quarter, scoring 15 points. But they could not catch up with the team from Dorchester, a team that had only lost one game all year and had done to Taconic what they had done to numerous other foes along the way.
Down 14 at halftime, Taconic had a puncher's chance in the third quarter, but TechBoston outscored the Braves 21-8 in the frame, including an 18-4 run to close out the stanza.
"It probably felt like there were more than five guys out there," Heaphy said.
Heaphy said he knew what was coming, but seeing it on the floor was far different than on tape.
"It's totally different as you know," he said. "They were buzzing around. In that chaos, they were pretty organized as well. It might look chaotic, but they knew what they were doing."
TechBoston had three senior starters, each of whom scored in double figures. So, there was that too.
It was a long way from November for this group of Braves. It was a team that had one returning veteran in Osorio, and a group up from what was an undefeated junior varsity team. But as any coach in any high school sport will tell you, the distance from JV to varsity might be as wide as the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to Ireland.
"This team, the way we grew over the season, doesn't even compare" to anything he's seen, junior forward Quintin Gittens said. "From the beginning of the season, with a lot of young guys and only one senior, it takes a lot to motivate the sophomores on the team. When we got to the tournament, it seemed like everybody grew and took another step in their game and as a person."
From the sixth seed in Western Mass. to a championship and then to the third Saturday of March. Only 16 teams were playing for state championships. Only eight of them could win.
While the Braves got their finalist medals and the finalist trophy, the Bears from Dorchester screamed and danced around and celebrated their championship.
"It was honestly pretty tough because we wanted to win as bad as you would think. Just to hear them cheer, it brought our spirits down," said Gittens, who, like the TechBoston defense, quickly changed gears.
"It gave us a lot of motivation," he said, "and gas on the fire to get us ready to come back next year."
And for the members of the Taconic basketball team, the Monday after Thanksgiving can't come soon enough.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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