Tigers pulled out a vital win in a tense, nervy battle at Wellsprings on Sunday. They went into the game in top spot with 7 wins and 2 losses, but second placed Reading were right on their tails with a 5 – 1 record. So, both teams knew that the outcome of this one could go a long way to deciding who eventually wins the division and secures home court advantage in the promotion play-offs.
Given the importance of the encounter, a tight game was always to be expected and that's exactly what was served up. The well-organised defences were on top throughout, but it was a scoring burst either side of half time that tipped this one Taunton's way.
Tigers began the first quarter brightly, with scores from Joe Saunders, Adam Rickwood and Tad Gray opening up an 8 – 3 lead, and those three players would continue to provide the home side's scoring threat all afternoon. Some poor rebounding, though, gave the visitors the chance to pick up second-chance points and level the scores 14 – 14 at the first break.
Rockets had the momentum going into the second quarter and Tigers only managed to score two points in the opening 6 minutes of the period. The home side's offensive woes allowed Reading to build a 16 – 22 lead but, as the half ran down, Taunton reacted by finally injecting some pace and penetration into their attacking play. Gray and Rickwood both drove for lay-ups and Saunders added the final 7 points of the half to complete an 11 – 0 run which brought their side from 6 points down to 5 up. In the context of a low-scoring game, 27 – 22 looked like a significant advantage at the half-way mark.
Tigers kept the pressure up at the start of the second half. Two free-throws from Kev Anderson, a pull-up jump shot from Rickwood and then a baseline drive and lay-up from Saunders took the scoring run to 17-0 before Reading managed to get in the act again. More points from Rickwood saw his side's lead peak at 12 points (40 – 28) and the home fans began to relax.
But Rockets then showed why they have only lost one game all season and mounted an impressive come-back. Two 3-pointers closed the gap back to just 6 points going into the fourth quarter. From then to the end of the game Taunton were under huge pressure and with less than two minutes to play there were only 3 points between the sides (54 – 51). Six missed free-throws down the stretch could have proved costly, but Tigers' ever-reliable defence kept Reading out to secure the win.
It was a relieved coach, Gary Carter, who reflected on the match,
“The game was a messy tense affair but we got the job done in the end, as a team we are a little frustrated that we did not really get into our rhythm and flow, especially offensively, but overall we achieved our main objective - to get the win.”