WMass Division 2 boys basketball: Taconic heats up, races past Northampton in semifinals

  • Jaeden Johndrow, top, of Northampton, makes a play for the ball against Quintin Gittens, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Michael McCarthy, right, and Anthony Dejesus try to get to a blocked shot ahead of Quintin Gittens, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael McCarthy, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Mohammed Sanogo, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dillon Diemand, right, of Northampton, scores a three-point shot while defended by Isaac Percy, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Justyn Rankins, left, of Northampton, drives past Dedric Moody, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jaeden Johndrow, center, of Northampton shoots against Taconic defenders Quintin Gittens, from left, Robert McCown and Mohammed Sanogo, but his shot is blocked by McCown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jaeden Johndrow, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Robert McCown, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Treyvon James-Salus, left, of Northampton, shoots against Mohammed Sanogo, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Machael McCarthy, second from left, of Northampton, reaches for a rebound against Taconic defenders Mohammed Sanogo, left, and Quintin Gittens during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton coach Rey Harp talks to his team in the third quarter against Taconic during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael McCarthy, front, of Northampton, shoots against Mohammed Sanogo, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Anthony Dejesus, left, of Northampton, draws a foul from Robert McCown, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jacob Brittain, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Dedric Moody, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Anthony Dejesus, left, of Northampton, drives to the basket against Quincy Davis, of Taconic, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Western New England University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/6/2019 11:36:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Dillon Diemand didn’t cower facing the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament’s top seed.

Northampton’s senior point guard hit two jumpers, including a 3, and helped the Blue Devils to a seven-point lead 3 minutes, 5 seconds in at Western New England.

“We were taking our time, running through our offense, not taking the first shot,” Diemand said. “I knew going into it that it could be my last game, so I was going into it as confident as I could be.”

Taconic hadn’t played since beating Hoosac Valley on Feb. 20 to close the regular season. The No. 5 Blue Devils blew out Tantasqua in the quarterfinals and carried that momentum into Wednesday’s semifinal.

“We won the battle on the perimeter. Our guards did a nice job of containing them and getting and knocking down big shots,” Northampton coach Rey Harp said. “(Diemand) gave us a lot at the beginning. It looked like we were riding his shoulders at the start.”

Taconic gradually kicked into gear. After Northampton’s initial burst, the Braves ripped off a 10-2 run to take the lead with a minute left in the first quarter. Jayden Cross discarded his defender with a behind-the-back dribble and sank a layup in traffic for a one-point lead.

Taconic never trailed again, winning 60-39 to reach the final for the second year in a row. The Braves will face No. 3 Chicopee at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst.

Taconic beat Northampton for the Division 2 championship last season. The Blue Devils graduated a massive group of seniors, while Taconic brought back nearly everyone from a group that reached last season’s state final. The Braves flexed that continuity and experience over the game’s final 30 minutes.

Northampton cut the deficit to a single possession once. Anthony Dejesus grabbed an offensive rebound and finished a layup through traffic to make it 19-16 with 4:18 to halftime.

The Braves closed the half on a 14-1 run.

“They always flip a switch and kick it into some other gear,” Northampton senior Michael McCarthy said. “They just turn it on quick and we couldn’t stop it at first. It got out of hand.”

The Braves stretched the lead to double digits when Robert McCown put back a miss to make it 27-17 with 1:44 left until halftime. It reached 20 after a Mohammed Sanogo layup 1:20 into the third quarter. He gave Taconic its biggest lead, 46-25, with a free throw with 17.3 left in the third.

“I think we got a little scared. We didn’t know what to do to come back,” Diemand said.

It was Northampton’s season-low point output. The Blue Devils previously scored 40 in a mid-February loss against Putnam. Northampton averaged 59 points per game.

“They took us out of so much of our rhythm on offense,” Harp said. “It was a nightmare offensively, but it was a nightmare dictated by hard pressure we have to be better with.”

Diemand led Northampton (11-11) with 11 points. He hit three 3s. McCarthy had nine. They and fellow seniors Dejesus (seven points), Jaeden Johndrow and Elijah Cronk played their final games for the Blue Devils.

“We didn’t know what we had when we came back. All our experience was in our seniors. We thought we had enough to be competitive in Division 2,” Harp said. “It’s a class that’s been great shepherds for the young guys. We lose athleticism and dynamic competition level that is hard to replace.”

Harp gave those young guys more run in the fourth quarter and they weren’t overwhelmed. Sophomore Justin Rankins finished with eight points and hit a 3 in the fourth quarter.

“There are guys that were waiting in the wings that are ready to take on the responsibility of that next step,” Harp said. “We’re a proud program that doesn’t like to take a step back.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.

Taconic 60, Northampton 39

Northampton (11-11)

Diemand 4-0-11, Brittain 0-0-0, Johndrow 0-2-2, Dejesus 2-27, McCarthy 3-2-9, James-Salus 0-0-0, Power 0-0-0, Rankins 2-3-8, Finnessey 1-0-2, Watts 0-0-0, Cancel 0-0-0, Lanier 0-0-0. Totals 12-9-39

Taconic (18-3)

Moody 1-0-3, Cross 2-0-4, Womble 2-0-6, Gittens 4-0-8, Davis 1-0-2, Percy 5-2-13, McCown 4-4-13, Sanogo 3-5-11. Totals 22-11-60

Northampton

9

8

8

14

—39

Taconic

13

20

13

14

—60

3-Pointers—Northampton 6 (Diemand 3, Dejesus, McCarthy, Rankins), Taconic 5 (Moody, Womble 2, Percy, McCown)




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