Taunton Tigers followed up an emphatic win away to Plymouth 104-56 with their first ever win against Birmingham 90 – 71 on Sunday, to maintain their 3rd place in National League Division 2. The largest crowd of the season turned up at Wellsprings sensing history was in the making against the best team in the West Midlands.
Taunton have scored well all season winning many games by out shooting their opponents but their recent surge has been on the back of old fashion Tigers Intensity. It was clear from the start that Birmingham who had won the reverse fixture by 15 points had underestimated Taunton's new energy on defence. As soon as the ‘Tigerettes’ had sat down after their pre-match dance, the Tigers set about Birmingham hustling and harrying them in ever area of the court.
Pressure led to steals and steals led to fats breaks. The knowledgeable crowd clearly appreciated the intricate ‘volleyball’ passing on the move that regularly saw all players touch the ball before an emphatic finish.
Before Birmingham had their second wind they were already staring at 25 – 7 score-line. The visitors soon settled into a slower tempo taking advantage of their 6′8″ American centre Barnes (18 points) inside. The biggest player in the league though was never allowed to fully enjoy himself with Graham Jones giving up a 10 stone advantage fought for ever inch whilst Matt Nolan snapped at the heels of the supply.
Paul Yabsley once again demonstrated his increasing leadership and maturity doing whatever was needed for Taunton, playing various roles and positions as the game progressed. He epitomised the ‘winning’ mentality that Taunton have developed over the season, with all the players adopting a selfless approach to games. Birmingham closed to within 6 points late in the second but as they faded Taunton were able to go back through the gears.
Joe Andrews (MVP) once again led all scorers with 31 points. His 8 from 10 shooting coupled with 100% from the line highlighted why he has developed into the most rounded offensive player in the league. Coach Ronnie Heath had had the luxury of being able to rest him regularly alongside the other starters, with the whole squad now able to contribute positively and maintain intensity.
When Barnes was disqualified for throwing Jones to the ground late in the 4th, the game was already out of Birmingham's reach. The brave Midlanders pushed hard right to the end and the 90 mins meeting in their changing room post game demonstrated how difficult this loss was for them.
Whilst Coach Heath refused to enter a dialogue about Tigers play-off chances, he was nevertheless delighted by Taunton's form at this stage of the season,
“It is true we are riding high right now and clearly playing the best and most entertaining basketball since I have been with the team. Confidence and team spirit count for a lot in this game. The weekend of 17th and 18th of March will go a long way to letting us know where our future lies.”
Saturday 17th sees Tigers entertain local rivals Tamar Cannons (Taunton won the away fixture by 1 point) followed by the biggest home game of the season against league leaders Derby on Sunday 18th.