No-one who saw this game will forget it in a hurry. It had it all: skill, commitment, and an incredible dramatic ending.
With Tigers in second place in the league (with a record of 7 wins and just 1 defeat) up against the undefeated league leaders from Plymouth, great things were expected and all the players delivered on that expectation. Marjon led the game from start to finish, or rather from start until 1.6 seconds from the finish. At that point Dom Hinchliffe completed a brilliant captain's performance by keeping his nerve and draining 2 free-throws to snatch the game for Taunton.
In the previous game of the afternoon, Plymouth had crushed Bristol 74 – 27, but they found the well-drilled Tigers side a much tougher defensive unit to unlock. In fact, both sides had to work hard for their points in very close and high-tempo first half.
Marjon always held a small advantage, but points from Orrells, Hinchliffe, Hayes and Burke-Ward kept Taunton in touch just 9 – 13 behind at the end of the first quarter. Then with the aid of mid-range jump-shots from Penny and David Grenfell, Taunton closed out the half with an 8 – 4 run which squeezed the gap to just 2 points: 21 – 23 at half-time.
The score stayed close at the start of the second half and Tigers looked like they might have gained a big advantage when Plymouth's key defensive player fouled out with 4:37 still left in the third quarter. However, it was Marjon who immediately went on a run which looked like it could be decisive. They scored 14 unanswered points to lead 28 – 44 at the final break, and they also scored the opening points of the fourth quarter.
With a deficit of 18 points, there looked to be no way back for Taunton. But Burke-Ward had other ideas. He scored two 2-pointers and a free-throw without reply and the momentum began to shift. Hinchliffe followed up with the next 7 points of the match and, after Hayes stole the ball and broke away for an uncontested lay-up, the gap had closed to 42 – 46.
Plymouth's coach called a time-out to steady the ship with 2:22 to go and it seemed to work, as they scored 4 quick points after the re-start. With 1:55 left in the game, and now trailing by a daunting 8 points, Tigers' coaches Matt Nolan and Gary Carter called a time-out of their own. What followed was a massive and intelligent effort from the Taunton players. Hinchliffe scored 2 from the in-bounds pass (44 – 50), Burke-Ward drove in 2 more (46 – 50), and then Orrells scored one free-throw and missed the second, but got the ball back and drained a basket to make it 49 – 50 with just 43 seconds to go.
Plymouth drew a foul on their next possession and went to the line for two shots. They missed both and Taunton looked to have secured the vital rebound, but the ball squirmed agonisingly out of play. The visitors could now just run the clock down and it looked like they were going to do so. But, with less than 10 seconds on the clock, they put up a long-range effort which missed and Tigers regained the ball with around 6 seconds left. A long pass found Hinchliffe who drove hard to the basket through a crowd of players. His shot didn’t fall, but a foul was called and he celebrated as though the game was already won. In reality, 1.6 seconds from the end, he had to make one of the shots to tie the game, or both to win it. The captain hit nothing but net on both shots and an unbelievable turn-around was complete.
After the game, Nolan couldn't disguise his joy,
“I'm just so proud of the lads. They all contributed to a great team performance, showing what we can do and where we are in our development.”