The boys bounced back from their opening home loss a week earlier to defeat Exeter Eagles 84 – 69 at Exeter thanks to a personal best 17 points from senior guard Jack Penny and some stifling second half defence.
Going into the game Taunton looked to be the better overall team, but Eagles boast two of the best open-court guards in the conference and they showed what they can do in the first quarter. The hosts put up a big 25 points to Tigers 22 in the opening period thanks to their running game and the inability of the visitors to handle it.
Exeter attempted to continue running in the second quarter but the Tigers press began to cause problems for them as they double teamed the guards in the backcourt. While Taunton mirrored their first period score total of 22, the team held the opposition to 14 and the score-line read 44 – 39 in Tigers' favour at the half.
At halftime Taunton decided to pull the full court press in favour of forcing Exeter into a half-court attack and that changed the complexion of the game. Unable to execute in a set offence, Tigers then began to run off of Exeter mistakes and stretched their lead to 69 – 52 after the third period.
While the boys had rotated 12 players in the first three quarters, the starters were rested in the fourth leaving a largely first-year line-up to see out the game. They did just that with a focus on defence that closed the win.
Penny's National League career high 17 lead the Tigers offence with rookie forward Dom Maher putting in a hard shift for his 14. Other players to hit double figures were Yosef Elo Gab (11) Dom Hinchliffe (10) and Liam Dunn (10) who joined Taunton from Exeter in the off season.
Head Coach Crncich said,
“At first I was happy to get into a running contest as I thought our rotations and depth could win us a game like that, but we just weren't transitioning into defence properly and thereby giving up too many points. We adjusted our press slightly and then took it off completely and that changed the game. At times our defensive effort and hustle was ferocious and as pleasing was to see a balanced scoring attack and good numbers from boys who you don't necessarily expect to do that.”
This game, however, was special because it saw the return to competitive basketball for Spencer Gormley. It was just over one year ago that Gormley suffered a life-threatening accident, severing all the tendons in both wrists and putting his playing future in much doubt. His triumphant and emotional return saw the rookie forward score five points including a 3 pointer and he showed all the signs of returning to his pre-accident good form.
“In the team huddle after the game captain Hinchliffe said a few special words about Spencer and we all got a lift from that. Sometimes in sports you are involved in things that transcend scores and wins and losses and his return is one of those things and I was happy and proud to be a part of it.”