Tigers' season came to an end on Saturday, but with 5 minutes to go they looked to be on the verge of causing a major upset. Having finished 8th in the league (and in the last play-off spot) they always knew that a trip to face a Derby side which completed the regular season in 1st place was going to be a huge test. And so it proved, but they gave the favourites a real scare.
You can watch the full game video here or View it on Vimeo. The match report continues below.
For much of the game, this looked like being a hard-fought, but relatively straightforward win for the home side. The opening exchanges in the first quarter were even and, with the aid of 6 early points from Paul Yabsley, Tigers held a slender 12 – 13 lead midway through the period. Derby then got into their stride, though, and outscored their opponents 15 – 6 up to the first break.
Simon Kearney picked up the first 5 points of the second period to pull his side back to within just 3 points, only to see Trailblazers slowly rebuild their lead. Tigers were down 50 – 40 at the half, but an evenly contested quarter had given them the confidence that they could compete and they came out really aggressively for the third period.
Scores from Adam Rickwood, Yabsley, Joe Andrews and Chris Page sent Taunton on a 13 – 4 run which brought them right back into the match (57 – 53) and they were just 7 points behind going into the final period. Tigers made a fantastic effort in that fourth quarter. Neither side could get a basket in the opening 2 minutes, but then the visitors exploded in to life. Page drained a 3-pointer, Kearney made a 2 and then Page knocked down another 3. At the same time Derby were being closed out. After 4 and a half minutes of the period Derby hadn't scored and Taunton had put the game right in the balance at 69 – 68.
Unfortunately, Derby then showed why they topped league. Where other teams might have buckled, they dug in and closed the match out with an 18 – 5 run.
Afterwards coach, Tom Kambouris, was bitterly disappointed with the defeat, but he paid tribute to his opponents and reflected on how far his side has come during this campaign,
“Going down the stretch, Derby executed better than us and showed why they deserve to win the league this year. Obviously, we're not satisfied with our season ending like this, but we have to recognise the significant improvement we've made. Last year our record in all competitions was 5 wins and 21 defeats; this season we've turned that around to 17 and 15. To make it to the next level we have to aspire to finish games when the pressure's on as well as Derby did tonight.”