Week nine saw Taunton take the short trip north up the M5 to face Bristol Academy Flyers in a rematch of their Cup game only three weeks ago. Expect for a short period of the first encounter when Flyers went on a comeback run, Tigers were comfortable 15 point winners on that day.
This was to be a much different battle at the Filton College Campus — one which would eventually turn out to be a nail-biting three-point victory for the visitors, 62 – 59.
The game started much as it did the first time around with Taunton taking to the attack in the first period. After two Flyers' threes saw them only trailing Tigers 9 – 8 after five minutes of play, the visitors defence put the clamp on its opponents and held Bristol scoreless during the final five minutes of the period while running out to a commanding 20 – 8 lead.
After a big three from point guard Liam Dunn increased Tigers' lead to 15 points, Flyers then scored the next six points in a row to narrow the margin to nine. The visitors responded with two buckets of their own in the fourth minute but from there it was all Flyers, ending the half on a 11 – 4 and going into the half trailing by just six, 31 – 25.
Head Coach Mark Crncich says the following about the first half,
“During the first quarter it seemed that it was going to be a repeat of our first win in their house. We began to rotate players earlier than normal and continued to take the battle to them. Liam lifted the whole team with his early make from behind the arc in the second period, but from there we lost our discipline on offence while their coach made some adjustments. They extended their defence and we struggled to get the entry passes we like in the half-court offence. They also did a good job sending defensive safeties back to inhibit our running game.”
Tigers again opened the scoring in the first minute of the second half with captain Dom Hinchliffe getting to the rim for a deuce. From there, however, the game turned into a battle that could have seen either team come out on top. The two opponents traded basket after basket in the third quarter and at the end of it, Tigers retained their marginal six-point advantage.
Even though Taunton remained in the driver's seat going into the final 10 minutes, it was Flyers, with some great vocal support from its home crowd, which seemed to be the team on the up. Both teams displayed some nervy play and both offences struggled in what would be a low scoring period.
The teams traded baskets in the opening minute of the fourth before Bristol guard Alex Bloomer hit his fifth trey of the game to bring his team within five points with two minutes gone in the quarter. Taunton starting forward Yosef Elo Gab then went down with a foot injury that put him out for the rest of the game, forcing Kai Little, in only his second game of the year, to see out the big man role.
Tigers got in the lane for four easy points from Dunn and Adam Hood to establish what looked like the winning margin with three minutes left. However, Flyers Bloomer wasn't done. Despite being closed out with double teams he nailed two more threes to bring the game back to a five point game with now only two minutes left.
Bloomer then missed and Hood got to the rim again for two with a minute to go forcing Flyers to foul as its only way back. Hinchliffe hit three of six high pressure free throws in the dying minute, in the middle of another Bloomer bomb, which helped the visitors see out the win.
Hinchliffe led all Tigers scorers with 16 points, followed by Dunn's 15 and Hood's 10. For Flyers, Bloomer hit eight threes and 34 points.
“Flyers may lack some all-around talent in their senior players, but they definitely have some in their first years and those guys played a lot better than they did in our first game. They also have an experienced coach who is able to make in-game adjustments, so unless we executed as well as we could, this was always going to be a tough contest. Add to that was their shooter had one of the best shooting performances I have ever seen at this age group in my 30-plus years of basketball. We tried to chase him over screens, under screens and even doubled him when we could and he still hit, so hats off to him.”
The U16s now have this weekend off before hosting Gloster Jets at home on December 3.