A week after suffering its third loss of the season, the boys bounced back with a critical 60 – 49 win over Exeter Eagles. The win meant Tigers kept its top four place in the Midlands South West Conference and in touch with a playoff spot.
A turnover-laden first quarter versus playoff-hunting rivals Stroud Sharks the week before resulted in Tigers trailing 29 – 5 after the first period—its worst 10 minutes of basketball all season and one which prevented any hope of a win. A week later at the Dome it was not turnovers but a failure to execute against a zone defence that resulted in another slow start for Taunton.
Against Exeter's zone the boys started the game going 0 – 10 from the field as the team settled for jump shots rather than attacking the opponent's basket. It took a full four minutes for Tigers to finally show up on the scoreboard. It was a plodding and uninventive first quarter that ended with the hosts up 9 – 7.
The second quarter saw Tiger continue to struggle on the offensive end and once again it took the team four minutes to register its first basket. The team got a lift after first-year swingman David Grenfell dropped a three from downtown, but even that did not inspire better execution on offence. Thanks to its defence, the hosts finished even after the first half with Exeter at 20 – 20, its second lowest halftime score of the season.
Revived, re-energized and refocused after the halftime break, Taunton came out and blitzed the visitors in the third period. Seniors Jack Penny and Kai Little sparked Taunton with two buckets a-piece at Exeter's rim and from there captain Dom Hinchliffe took over. After a three-bomb, the captain went on to score 16 points in the period which saw the hosts overrun Eagles 28 – 12 in the quarter.
With the result largely comfortable but not inevitable, Tigers rookies played most of the second half of the third quarter and all of the fourth. They closed out the game nicely with a good defensive effort and proper execution of Taunton's zone offence.
Hinchliffe continues to lead the Tigers offense and had 23 points on the day, while Penny was the only other Tiger to hit double figures with 10.
Coach Crncich said this about the game,
“Away to Stroud the week before we had an absolute uncharacteristic start and just could not chase the game down. Over the last three quarters, we beat them, but I keep stressing the basketball is a 40 minute game and you cannot afford to lose focus at anytime. On Saturday we faced a weaker team but we didn't do what we needed to do to put them away early. We have had a wake-up call over these last two games and we need to respond quickly if we are to secure a top-four finish and a playoff spot.”
The U16s now have a weekend off before facing a critical two week period. On February 4 the team travels to Arden where it will face the undefeated conference leaders before a season-deciding home-and-away weekend against fellow playoff contenders Coventry Elite.