Taunton Tigers announced their arrival into the upper end of basketball's hierarchy with an emphatic home win against Tamar Valley Cannons. The Tigers finished 83 – 67 winners in the Patron's Cup round 1 against local southwest rivals, a competition for National Division 2 teams played in a ‘Champions League format’. Taunton will hope to be one of the top two teams in the south, to allow them will advance to the semi-finals.
The game didn't start well for the Tigers however who took their time to find their feet at this level. Giant centres Deng and Peard for the Cannons, gave the home side all sorts of trouble inside as Tamar opened up a 14 – 6 early lead. A broken nose for Kevin Anderson meant that sat the game alongside long term injury and illness victims Tad Gray and Lee Riviello. This left the Tigers literally short in the inside positionss and Coach Ronnie Heath had to rely on a rotating committee of players to compete for rebounds.
Encouraged by the noisy home support, Captain Graham Jones lead the fight back with 13 first half rebounds. He was well supported by Mike Sebire who was asked to play out of position again. By the half Tigers had closed to 28 – 28 before junior, Jordan Seeley hit a 3-pointer on the buzzer. As Tamar tired in the second half, the game opened up suiting the Tigers guards. Game MVP Joe Andrews let loose with 12 second half points, whilst Dan Howe continued his improvement. ‘Dangerous’ Dan cut the bigger Cannons to pieces in the open court scoring 7 points and feeding others for easy hoops.
By the forth quarter the Tigers offence was in full flow as Richard Anderson (16 points) had the opportunity to prove that he can score against bigger opponents with speed and clever footwork. Head Coach Ronnie Heath had last week refused to accept the underdog label for this fixture and his confidence in his young side seems vindicated. He was nevertheless delighted by the progress of his side.
“We hit a few of our Milestones today. Firstly we were fitter than one of the established Nat Div 2 sides. We clearly had better strength in depth and most significantly were able to respond with better ‘team’ basketball when it really mattered.”
The Tigers are clearly fast adjusting to life at the higher level and it will be interesting to see whether they will be ready for the challenge of Plymouth (Round 2 National Cup) in their next Home game on Sunday October 22nd 5.00pm tip-off.