Taconic boys basketball team gets back to work as two-time defending Western Mass. champ
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County being covered in a blanket of snow can only mean one thing — it's time to hit the hardwood.
Not only are the back-to-back state finalist Taconic Braves working on their game, but they're trying to build a puzzle, as well.
"We are trying to quickly evaluate strengths and weaknesses," coach Bill Heaphy said during practice Thursday. "The goal is to discover which piece goes where."
The Braves are coming off of back-to-back Western Massachusetts Division II championships, and consecutive appearances in the state championship game. However, they're without a handful of key players from those teams, including Robert McCown, Quincy Davis and Quentin Gittens, who all graduated in the spring.
"Every year brings new challenges and we have a lot of new faces," Heaphy said. "We have a mix of a few good returning guys that we are going to really rely on to provide some leadership and help the young guys."
Two of those players are Mohammed Sanogo and Isaac Percy, who will be leaned on to do some of the heavy lifting early in the season.
Percy was a catalyst for Taconic's playoff success in 2019 as he scored a combined 99 points during four-game run, which included a 21-point third quarter in the state semifinal against Westboro.
"I've been trying to improve my leadership skills," Percy said. "I am trying to communicate more, bring the team together, make sure everyone is in class together and try to vibe together since this is a new young team. We need to build that chemistry we had in years past."
This week marked the first week of winter practices and coach Heaphy is focused on identifying which kids are up to the challenge of helping Taconic make another deep playoff run.
"We're seeing if the kids are ready to make the full commitment that it requires," said Heaphy, who is entering his 20th season as the coach of Taconic. "It takes a little bit of time because I think it is going to be a process that they need to embrace. It isn't just going to happen.
"It is always exciting to get back into the gym and hopefully we'll get better each day."
Taconic's schedule features a handful of notable games, including a showdown with Chicopee at the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College on Thursday, Jan. 16. The Braves will also play Cambridge Rindge & Latin and Acton-Boxborough in the Boston Amateur Basketball Clubs' Holiday Classic at the end of December. The Braves also play in the Pioneer Valley Tip-Off on Dec. 15 against Putnam and host Green Tech, out of Albany, N.Y., in the Pittsfield Hoop Club Holiday Classic on Dec. 19.
The 2019-20 campaign begins on Friday, Dec. 13 at St. John's in Shewsbury. Taconic's home opener is Dec. 17 against Longmeadow.
"I am very comfortable," said Percy of his role as a leader. "I've been working on my individual skills to help bring us back to where we ended up last year. It feels great to be back and our goal is to get that [Western Mass.] three-peat"
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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