An incredible run that saw Taunton Tigers Men's team finish 3rd in the National Division 2 before making their way to the Play-off Final, came to an end this weekend. Despite leading by 1 point going into the last two minutes of their showpiece final against Northumbria in the 11,000 seater Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, Tigers lost 67 – 75 whilst chasing in the dying seconds.
The team and supporters were clearly devastated afterwards but all were quick to recognise the incredible rise of the club this year.
A 25 point win against league winners Derby late in the season gave warning to the rest of the division the Tigers would be a force in the Play-offs. A home win against League Cup winners Leicester set up a tantalising two-leg semi-final against Birmingham who had defeated local rivals Bristol. When Taunton emerged victorious, a tantalising final against Northumbria, the other form team in the league.
Northumbria have added Sam Attah and Greg Modelowski to their playing roster and have had an incredible rum themselves, culminating in a semi-final win against Derby.
Taunton had started the final in typical Tigers fashion, overwhelming the opposition in the early exchanges with a combination of quality and intensity to open up a 10 point lead that they sustained for the half, going in at 46 – 36 points. Richard Anderson (12 points) was benefiting from the Tigers ball movement.
Coach Heath, keen to press home the advantage started the second half with his most experienced five players, however Northumbria came out more aggressively and dominated rebounding on their way to restricting Taunton to only six 3rd quarter points.
Whilst Taunton never regained their offensive composure, Captain Graham Jones supported well by Paul Yabsley, rallied the Tigers one more time. Roared on by their travelling supporters a rise in intensity allowed them to crawl back a one point lead, only to lose out in the final two minutes.
Jordan Seeley (14 points) and Dan Howe were probably the only players who really excelled in the high-pressure environment.
Many felt that Taunton had received the worst of the Referees calls but Head Coach Ronnie Heath refused to see this as the reason for losing,
“The truth is that they were more aggressive than us when it mattered. When the pressure come on we drifted away from our game plan and Tigers programme.”
He went on to praise the players and staff though,
“The players have had a fantastic season and have committed to a long-term journey of development. As for my support staff, they out performed all of us once again. A lot of people work incredibly hard to give up this privileged opportunity. We are more determined than ever before to reach our long-term goal of National Division 1 Basketball.&rdqo;