Taunton Tigers go into the Christmas break with a 4 – 4 record in the National Div 2 following a 95 – 84 win against Team Northumbria at Wellsprings on Sunday. The win lifts them to joint fifth in the table and coupled with their continued participation in the Patron's Cup (for teams below Div 1) represents a fine return to the upper echelons of British basketball.
Away losses to Bristol and then Aston Athletic last Saturday threatened to dent the early season confidence. But as Coach Heath returned from a family wedding abroad he was philosophical about the blip in form whilst he was away.
“Bristol and Birmingham are now one-team big cities and we have to accept for now that we are not yet mentally ready for them. In terms of skill and fitness we are a match for every team in this league and now our players have to begin to believe that.”
British Basketball Legend Gordon is way past his best for Birmingham. But with a frame of 6′9″ and 22 stone and experienced head, he was the difference between the 2 teams. Tigers rallied in the second half but were never going to chase down the 20 point lead Birmingham had developed in the first half.
It was imperative then that the following day against Team Northumbria in front of their home fans that Tigers bounced back. There was no lack of intensity by the Taunton players in the first half but a collection of turnovers and quality shooting from the visitors meant that Taunton had to be happy to go in 45 – 44 at the break.
The game had an unusual flow with Northumbria regularly troubling Tigers with full-court pressure where they made easy baskets from front court steals. Taunton however really had their half-court passing game going well and were able themselves to score with ease once they had beaten the traps.
Richard Anderson (MVP 18 points) benefited from the slick offence as did Joe Andrews (22 points). Jones, Nolan and Anderson tightened up the defence in the 3rd quarter for tigers which gave them the platform for cameo offensive performances by Jordan Seeley and Joe Saunders who revelled in the extra possession. By the end of the 3rd the game was effectively killed on the buzzer with Bird brought in for a special play to nail a 3-pointer and give Taunton a 74 – 60 lead. Northumbria never gave the game up though and pushed Tigers right to the end.