Tigers U16s have made the play-offs after a close 54 – 47 win over Coventry Elite on Saturday 24 March at the Huish Dome. The team finished tied for third with Bristol Storm in the Midlands South West Conference with 15 wins and five losses, but came in fourth as Bristol won the head-to-head aggregate by four slim points.
The boys now head to north London this Sunday to face Haringey Hawks. Haringey won the South Conference with a perfect 18 – 0 record, scoring nearly 94 points a game while surrendering only 62 per game.
Coach Crncich said,
“The numbers and relative regular season records seem to point for a very tough day for us. However, we have talked all season long about how results are not dictated by history but by which team competes and executes the best on the day. I believe we have every chance to go there and cause a surprise. No matter what we are going to battle hard on every possession.”
Taunton had to fight it out until the end against Coventry to qualify for its playoff spot in front of a loud and boisterous home crowd.
The game started out looking like it was going to be a romp by Tigers. The hosts got to the rim off of fast-breaks for the opening two baskets. Coventry followed with a three, but Taunton's press caused two more turnovers and four points. Following another jumper from the visitors, Tigers went on a tremendous 17 – 0 run for the rest of the quarter. Coventry simply could not handle the Taunton press and many of their scores came from turnovers.
Tigers began the second quarter as they played in the first and stretched the lead to 26 – 7 after the first three minutes. With the hosts now bringing the bench into the fight, a number of costly turnovers allowed Coventry to fast-break. Over the last six minutes of the second period, it was the visitors who dominated the game and outscored Taunton 19 – 7, meaning Tigers went into the half with a slim seven point advantage, 33 – 26.
Coach Crncich commented,
“In that first quarter we played near faultless basketball. It seemed that everything we worked hard at all season long came together. Our press caused them huge problems, we ran our fast-break really well, our help-defence was right on the mark, we rebounded well and didn't turn the ball over. However, as happy as I was after the first period I could not believe that it would be that easy for us over 40 minutes, and I told the players that, and as it turned out they came steaming right back at us. There's no doubt I was the happiest of the two coaches to hear the half-time buzzer.”
Despite the break in play and the chance to implement some game adjustments, Coventry came out playing like they had during the second quarter. The visitors got the ball inside and hit, which was followed by a deep three and another bucket from in close and levelling the score at 33. Taunton called a timeout to regroup and came out of that break firing. A Tigers 12 – 3 run meant the hosts went into the final period up nine, 45 – 36 on the scoreboard, but in effect up 23 in the head-to-head aggregate score.
The boys came out with the purpose and confidence of a team that had taken everything the enemy could throw at it and was still winning the battle. Tigers were more methodical in increasing the lead to 52-41 with four minutes left on the clock and the playoffs well within grasp. From there Taunton struggled to change its stripes from a hard-pressing, running team to one that would slow the game down and run down the clock out of its half-court sets. During the attempt to make this transition, Coventry hit back to narrow the lead to five, before a Tigers timeout settled the team and it was able to see out the game.
Senior forward Yosef Elo Gab lead the offence with 15 points and a solid game against Coventry's big front court. New-boy Noah Tomlin and the ever consistent Jack Penny kicked-in eight points each in a very balanced scoring attack for Tigers. The win was also notable for the fact that the five first year players who suited up on the day saw minutes in both halves of the game.
“We have won games by much wider margins during this season, but none, even some of the losses in which we played well, came close to the kind of smart and hard-working basketball that we played today. I was glad that we were able to rotate in all 12 players as the experience they got from just being involved in a game like that, even viewing most of it from the bench, will be good for their development.”
Tigers will take a full-team of 12 players to north London on Sunday, which will include six first year players. The team will take some great support with them as the club has generously agreed to hire an extra minibus to take parents and other supporters to the game.