North Middlesex freshman Erin Antosh knocks down a layup during Saturday s playoff win over Taconic.
North Middlesex freshman Erin Antosh knocks down a layup during Saturday s playoff win over Taconic. (SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ED NISER)

TOWNSEND -- Welcome to the Big Stage, Erin Antosh. Welcome to Western Mass. hoops, North Middlesex Regional.

Antosh, the 6-foot-2 freshman who will presumably terrorize and give Mid-Wach A coaches nightmares for the next three years, stepped up when her team, making its maiden voyage in the vast waters of Western Mass. basketball, needed her most. Antosh scored 10 of North Middlesex's first 12 points of the fourth quarter and ended up with a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, giving the second-seeded Patriots much-needed separation against No. 7 Taconic en route to a 52-38 win over the Braves in the Western Mass. Division 1 quarterfinals at Bartlett Gymnasium Saturday night.

The Patriots (17-4) now move on to their first Western Mass.

North Middlesex senior Elena Beauregard shoots a 3-pointer.
North Middlesex senior Elena Beauregard shoots a 3-pointer. (SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ED NISER)
semifinal against Alyssa Guyon and third-seeded Ludlow at the Curry Hicks Cage. That game is slated for Wednesday evening, but North Middlesex athletic director James Bunnell indicated it may be moved to accommodate the North Middlesex hockey team's Division 3A semifinal with Thanksgiving rival Nashoba Regional.

"Awesome, awesome, awesome," said legendary North Middlesex head coach Pat Murphy about the victory, and Antosh's performance to boot. "There were times where she played like a freshman, and there were stretches where she played like the seasoned veteran, especially the last eight or nine minutes where she had seven or eight rebounds, and that was huge.

"I like the way we responded.


For not playing for 10 days, we struggled a little early and we then held them to 15 in the second half."

Guyon is a 1,000-point scorer that is around 200 points away from setting the Lions' school record from scoring as a junior, and media reports west of the Quabbin indicate teams have been double- and triple-teaming. but Guyon still manages to score.

"We're just going to try and make her work hard. She's a great player, and great players will score. We just have to make her work hard.

North MIddlesex senior Mackensey Farina makes a layup in the fourth quarter.
North MIddlesex senior Mackensey Farina makes a layup in the fourth quarter. (SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ED NISER)
Conversely, she's going to be guarding one of our bigs," Murphy noted.

Taconic, which hammered 10th-seeded Springfield Commerce 66-19 earlier in the week, ended its season at 11-11.

North Middlesex (17 of 52 from the field) held a slim 26-23 lead at the half before it outscored the tourists from Pittsfield 11-4 in the third. In fact, Taconic only hit one bucket in that stanza as the Braves went ice cold from the field in the second half (4 of 18).

"Switching to the zone confused them a bit," Murphy said of his team's defense. "We closed out on (Angela O'Neil, 10 points), finally, to shut her down."

But with senior Mackensey Farina (17 points, 5 rebounds) picking up her fourth foul with several minutes left to go in the third, Murphy played it safe: He sat Farina for most of the fourth quarter while the freshman played.

It was a gamble, but it paid off as Antosh -- who also had four fouls -- stepped into the role she'll inherit on the Patriots squad.

"It was a roll of the dice with Erin: I knew that we had the senior leader if Erin had picked up her fifth, we would still have a foul to give," Murphy said. "(Antosh) took more 15-footers than she has, because Mackensey wasn't in the game."

After a pair from the line, Antosh scored a 15-footer out an outside-inside pass from Brittani LeBlanc to make it 41-27. Less than a minute later, Julia Murray (6 points, 10 rebounds) scored a baseline jumper on a LeBlanc helper to make it 43-38.

"That was a big hoop," Murphy said.

On the next two North Middlesex trips, LeBlanc fed Antosh for a pair of short-range jumpers that put the Patriots out to a 47-29 advantage.

Taconic's Cortnee Clemens (10 points) tried to spark a comeback with a couple of 3-pointers and a jumper inside, to cut the deficit to 12, 49-37, but that was as close as the Braves -- who travelled a little less than three hours for this affair -- could get.

North Middlesex led 13-9 after the first, but Taconic managed to make an 11-2 run to take a 20-17 lead that lasted for about two minutes. A trey by Clemens and a pair of hoops by Kirsten McNiece sandwiched a 4-o- 6 effort from the line as Taconic's defense stepped up and denied the Patriots the goal. 

In fact, the two points North Middlesex scored in the run came from the stripe, thanks to Antosh.

Farina ended the 3:21 scoreless skid on an inbound.

North Middlesex then closed the half on a 9-3 run, with Farina, Murray and LeBlanc scoring.

Follow Sean Sweeney on Twitter @MrSeanMSweeney