TAUNTON, Mass. -– After an entertaining, back and forth first quarter that ended with No. 7 Taunton up 13-10 on No. 10 Catholic Memorial, a tough battle throughout seemed to be in the forecast.
Instead, Taunton used the second and third quarters to showcase its half-court offense, shooting an impressive 17-for-25 from the field in those quarters to pull away from Catholic Memorial, finishing them off for a 65-50 win.
“We respect that program,” Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey said. “We communicated to the kids the tradition that that school has and how they play. They always play hard and they’re always disciplined. I think we transmitted it to them what to expect.”
Taunton used a 14-3 run to open the second quarter, paced by seven points from reserve guard Corey Green. Junior Gerald Cortijo added five points in the run, and scored a deep three later in the quarter to make it 34-20 Taunton.
“My team told me to just stay aggressive and shoot the ball every time I had a chance, that’s what I did.” Cortijo said. “Just one person has to get it going and it’s going to open up the court for everybody.”
Shaq Davis scored another deep three for Taunton to give them a 37-22 lead at the break. Taunton shot 8-for-11 in the second frame compared to Catholic Memorial’s 3-for-13.
“They just made some shots and we just a little drought offensively,” CM head coach Denis Tobin said. “We just had trouble putting the ball in the basket in the second quarter and they didn’t at all.”
The halftime break helped Catholic Memorial break out of their offensive woes briefly, but Taunton didn’t miss a beat either. The Tigers matched each of CM’s baskets and then some, increasing a 15-point halftime lead to a 22-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“They shot the ball extremely well tonight,” Tobin said. “I give them a ton of credit. We wanted to try and slow them down some, and we did. They ran their half court offense tremendously and if we gave them an open shot, they made them.”
Cortijo tied for the team high with senior Anthony Parker with 14 points apiece. Green added 12 while both Davis and Fawaz Mass chipped in with nine.
“We made the rhythm three’s, which changed the way they looked at the game,” Dacey said.
Catholic Memorial outscored Taunton 14-7 in the final quarter, but was due in large part to the Tigers using the entire shot clock before firing up a shot.
Taunton will travel to play fourth-seeded Newton North on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Taunton came into the tournament boasting a 15-5 record, but was still in search of a big time win.
The Tigers lost to the South's No. 1 seed Mansfield Hornets twice, but only by a combined 10 points. They lost a one-point nail-biter to fifth-seeded New Bedford in late January, and then another one-point loss to the Whalers in an exclusion game just before the playoffs. They beat No. 9 seed Franklin on the road by two, but saw those same Panthers come in and beat them on their home court.
With their big win over Catholic Memorial, they might have found that confidence-boosting win they’ve been looking for.
“We know it’s playoff time,” Cortijo said. “We slacked a couple of games, but it was time to put it all together.”
With the confidence, it’s not only Cortijo, Davis, and Mass that are demanding defensive pressure. Senior Anthony Parker used his athleticism to his advantage, working his way to 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Anthony, when we find a mismatch, we go at it,” Dacey said. “He’s a matchup problem for people. He’s quick, he’s a leaper and when we have the matchup out there, that’s what we want.”
Parker’s athleticism was contagious, as the majority of Taunton is very quick.
“We’re a fast team, we like to run,” Cortijo said.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME?
For Catholic Memorial, it wasn’t their most talented team they’ve had over the years, but Tobin made sure to credit their work ethic.
“This wasn’t the most talented team I’ve ever had, but it was by far the hardest working team,” Tobin said. “That’s a credit to the seniors, who day in and day out, gave more than 110%. They showed my younger guys, who are very talented, the amount of effort it requires to be successful.”
The Knights will lose captains Pat Hurley, Rich Lopez, and John McDonough, along with D.J. McClure and Chris Siggers to graduations.
They will return big man Gerard Adams -– who had a team-high 12 points and 10 boards –- and talented guard Guilien Smith.