Phillips balls out to lead Taconic girls to win over Pittsfield, season sweep of city rivalry

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PITTSFIELD — Ahliya Phillips stepped onto the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires court on Friday night and felt right at home. After all, the Taconic freshman grew up hooping on the court on Melville Street.

So when the ball was tossed into the air for the city rivalry game against Pittsfield High, Phillips went to work.

Phillips poured in a game-high 19 points, and added seven rebounds to power her team to a 44-32 win over the Generals. With the win, the Braves (13-3, 4-2 Berkshire North) take the season series over the PHS, having won 63-51 in the season opener on Dec. 7, 2018.

"It's big for me, because I used to play with the Club growing up, so I just feel like I'm playing home again," Phillips said after the win. "And I had a good game, and winning with the girls - they're like family, so it was good."

Taconic did have to play catch-up early after Jordyn Lummus converted an and-one to start the game, but once Taea Bramer put Taconic up 8-6 on a drive to the basket, the Braves did not trail again.

The team was aided in the win by deploying a new defense. Utilizing a 1-2-2 half-court trap, with Kendra Buda mainly playing as the '1' in the defense, the Braves harried the Generals' ballhandlers, and when Pittsfield's shots failed to drop from distance, Taconic had its rival where it wanted.

"Tonight was the first time we really threw it out there and played it," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said of the defensive scheme. "I thought they played really great in it."

Taconic took a 10-6 lead after a quarter, but Pittsfield (9-7, 2-3) tied the game up at 10-all on buckets by Alexis Garvey (11 points) and Lummus (8 points). Taconic got the lead back when Ciany Conyers (14 points) hit one of two from the line, and from that point on Taconic never relinquished the lead or allowed PHS to tie the game up.

Phillips made one of the better plays of the first half near the end of the second quarter, when she hit the floor on a fast break off of a defensive rebound, and converted an and-one to put her team up 22-14. At half, the Braves led 22-16.

To open the second half, Taconic blew out the lead to 15 points — 32-17 — on a defensive rebound by Bramer, who then found Buda on the outlet for a layup, then with 2:43 to play in the frame Bramer hit a pair of free throws to give Taconic its biggest lead of the game. Pittsfield managed to whittle the deficit down to 36-25 at the end of three on the back of a pair of Garvey buckets. Still, though, the Generals were struggling, unable to get anything going from outside.

"I thought we didn't shoot well from the 3-point area, so it didn't bring the defense out so we could open up the inside," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. "We got a few good baskets from Garvey up top and in transition, but if we made a couple more 3s it might have spread the defense out a little bit."

Pittsfield continued cutting into the deficit to start the final frame, and an elbow jumper by Natasha Shade on a pass from Alexi Sondrini — after Sondrini had hit a 3-pointer — made it a 36-30 game. Taconic got its insurance points, though, on a free throw from Conyers and a drive by Bramer that resulted in a highlight-reel finish.

"At the end, it felt like the ball wouldn't go in to push our lead up, but Taea made a nice runner and I still don't know how it went in," Mickle said. "She kind of turned her body and threw it up, but they made enough shots to win."

Phillips noted that the intensity on defense paid dividends on both ends of the court.

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"We honestly boxed out more," Phillips said. "We just had to rebound. And we didn't give up. We hustled for the ball, the loose balls we were on the floor for. We worked hard."

Mickle noted that for his dynamic freshman duo, the win Friday was important, because Conyers and Phillips allowed things to come to them instead of forcing the issue.

"I thought the game slowed down for them tonight," Mickle said. "They are talented kids, but sometimes the game's moving really fast for them. Tonight, I thought they stayed under control, and really slowed the game down and took what the defense was giving to them."

Conyers added 11 rebounds with her points, while Bramer had four assists to go with eight points. Garvey had a double-double for PHS, registering 17 rebounds with her points. Sondrini had three assists, as well.

The loss was a come-back-to-earth moment for the Generals, a night after PHS went to Cheshire and knocked off Hoosac Valley. The game was also the second of three in four days for PHS. Racicot said that, with a semi-formal on Saturday, his team was going to rely on film work to get ready for Sunday's game against Monument, and with it the possibility of securing a Western Mass. D-II tournament berth.

Taconic, meanwhile, is off until Monday, when the team plays Wahconah in a key Berkshire North showdown. As it stands, the Braves, Warriors and Hoosac are all 4-2 in the North. Hoosac beat Taconic twice and Wahconah once, while the Warriors beat the Hurricanes once and lost to Taconic once.

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PITTSFIELD (32)

Sime 1-2-4, Shade 2-0-4, Sondrini 1-0-3, Eline-Wright 1-0-2, Garvey 5-1-11, Lummus 3-2-8, Speers-Brown 0-0-0, King 0-0-0, Hines 0-0-0. Totals 13-5-32.

TACONIC (44)

Bramer 3-2-8, Phillips 9-1-19, Curry 0-0-0, Cross 0-0-0, Buda 1-1-3, Conyers 6-2-14, Christopher 0-0-0. Totals 19-6-44.

Pittsfield     6     10     9     7     —     32

Taconic     10     12     14     8     —     44

3-point goals — P 1 (Sondrini).

Taconic     10     12     14     8     —     44

3-point goals — P 1 (Sondrini).

3-point goals — P 1 (Sondrini).


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