Taunton's U16s finished the first half of the season in a tie for third place in the Midlands-South West Conference, following a comfortable 68 – 52 win at home over Bristol Storm. The 7 – 2 Tigers trail second-place Storm by a single point having played one less game.
Bristol scored the first two points of the game, but that was the last time the visitors would lead as Tigers went on to blitz their opponents 20 – 9 after the first period of play. Taunton's press and running game put Bristol, which had only lost two games prior to the encounter, firmly on the back foot.
Senior forward Yosef Elo Gab got to the rim for the opening bucket of the second quarter, but Bristol seemed to steady themselves during the first break and responded with a long three and an inside deuce from one of their bigs. Tigers responded quickly to the visitors spark by going on a 12 – 0 run, capped by a trey from Captain Dom Hinchliffe, which stretched the lead to 14. Both offenses slowed in the later part of the period and Taunton went into the half leading 40 – 26.
The intensity and prowess of Tigers effort and execution on offence completely deserted the team in the third period. The hosts only managed to put up eight points in the quarter and with two minutes remaining in the third, Storm managed to cut the hosts lead to 10 points. Crucial baskets from Hinchliffe and Liam Dunn helped to stop the bleeding and put Tigers up 12, 48 – 36 going into the fourth quarter.
Any hopes of Bristol catching the hosts were dashed by Hincliffe's hot hand with which he poured in 10 points in the final period including two three-bombs. Tigers rookies, who had played quality minutes throughout the game, were sent out to see out the last four minutes of the fourth and closed out the game 68 – 52.
After two quite scoring games from leading scorer Hinchliffe, he busted out for 31 points on the day. The balance of the attack was shared amongst nine others, including six from point guard Ben Hayes who returned to action following a month-long layoff recovering from an ankle injury.
Head Coach Mark Crncich said after the game,
“We were facing a team that had enjoyed a great start to the season and we knew this would be a battle. Storm has some good size, a three point ace and a decent point guard who is very quick. We did a good job sticking to their shooter and limited him to six points, but we struggled at times rotating on ball-screens that resulted in some easy points for their bigs. Dom had a special game and every time they seemed to be clawing back into the game, he would make a big shot. He's been quiet in the last two games against weaker opposition, but really stepped it up in a big game, and that is the mark of a true scorer. We can now go into the holiday break as not only a team in a good position in the table, but one that has continued to improve in each game that we have played.”
The U16s will begin the New Year with a home date against Shropshire Warriors on January 7 at the Dome and will look to extend its winning streak to six games.