The club's U16s will go into the holidays break with an unbeaten away record after a 62 – 43 win over Torbay on Saturday. The result keeps the team near the top of the Midlands-South West conference with a record of six wins and two losses before the final home game of 2011 next Saturday.
The game started uncharacteristically slowly for Taunton as it took the team three minutes before it was able to finally convert a lay-up to tie the score at two apiece. The visitors quickly recovered from the slow start to blitz Torbay during a 17 – 4 run that was capped by rookie David Grenfell hitting a three ball. By the end of the first quarter, Tigers was up 25 – 10.
Taunton's offensive execution suffered in the second quarter after the hosts came out in a zone defence. Rookie guard Rob MacIntyre opened the Tigers scoring in the second by responding to a Torbay layup with a short jumper. While the offence struggled to convert the good looks it managed against the zone, the defence ensured that Taunton kept stretching out the lead. After only giving up seven points in the period, the visitors went into halftime with a comfortable 40 – 17 lead following a three-bomb from Adam Hood.
After the opening half, Head Coach Mark Crncich said,
“Over the last six weeks we have developed into a very fast starting team which comes as a result of our full-court pressure and our ability to run effectively, and it was the same story in Torbay. The pace slowed in the second quarter as they got back and quickly established their zone, but it was thanks to the defensive execution from all 12 guys that we continued to amass a fairly substantial lead.”
After taking off full-court pressure to start the second half, it was Torbay that got off to the quick start. The hosts scored the first four points of the third quarter before seniors Hood and Dom Hinchliffe scored the game's next eight points. Taunton's min-run established a 25-point margin when Torbay pushed the pace and responded with a small run of its own, scoring seven unanswered points to shrink the lead. The quarter ended with the visitors up 57 – 35.
While Tigers surrendered a disappointing 18 points in the third period it would put the defensive clamps back on its opponents and only gave up eight in the last quarter. For its part, Taunton rookies now got the bulk of the minutes and really struggled to solve the host's defence, which was now an unusual triangle and two, a combination defence that sees three defenders playing a zone while the other two guard man-to-man. In fact, the team only managed a single two-point field goal in the quarter with its remaining three points coming from free-throws.
After being limited offensive threats in their first years at the U16s level last season, Adam Hood and Jack Penny continued to show consistent scoring performances with 14 and 11 points respectively. Power forward Kai Little dominated in the limited minutes he played and scored 10. Liam Dunn and Captain Hinchliffe chipped in with eight points each and Grenfell was two for four from behind the arc to help him score seven. Matt Parks, MacIntyre and Henry Mansfield also got on the scoreboard.
Following the result, Coach Crncich was mildly pleased with the win.
“Aside from the third quarter when they pushed the ball at us and we didn't transition back well enough, we were always very comfortable at both ends of the floor. We decided to be sporting and lifted the press and looking back that was probably a mistake as we are not used to teams running at us as they did. We are going to have to spend more time working on defensive transition, especially against a team that continues to move the ball and players even if the initial break doesn't come off. It was also a big ask for the rookies to execute against zone defence as this is their first year facing zone, never mind a combination defence which you do not normally see at any level of junior basketball. We achieved the result, the first years got a lot of minutes and we learned some things about ourselves in the process, so it was a decent day for us.”
The U16s now have a big home date against Bristol Storm this Saturday. The teams boast identical six-win and two-loss records and the game will decided which team finishes the first half of the season in sole possession of third place in the conference. Tip-off is at 1:15 in the Dome.