ATTLEBORO, Mass. -– Senior guard Gerald Cortijo scored 17 points, including a go-ahead three-pointer with just 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter to help Taunton (6-2) pull out a 57-52 victory on the road at Attleboro (6-3) on Friday night.
With the score tied 49-49 with just 2:46 left in the game, Taunton guard Shaq Davis hit a free throw to give the Tigers the lead. On the next possession, Cortijo hit a turnaround baseline jumper over Brandon Clark to extend the lead to three.
Attleboro responded through an unlikely source. Senior guard Stanley Beaubrun hit a straightaway three-pointer that touched every part of the rim and hung precariously on the front before finally dropping in to tie things up. It was Beaubrun’s first three since the second game of the season.
After a timeout, Attleboro came out in a match-up zone, but there was some confusion and Cortijo was left wide open in the corner. He buried the shot with just 19.1 on the clock. Attleboro was able to get two looks for its top scorer Tim Walsh (17 points) but he was not able to hit and Cory Green tacked on two free throws in the final second to ice it.
Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey knew that he could count on a big game from Cortijo after he had been forced to sit out Tuesday’s match-up with the Hornets.
“He missed the Mansfield game and...he was ready for this. He’s a competitor,” said Dacey. “We always have a rock fight with them (Attleboro). It’s not pretty basketball but slug it out a little bit, make a big hoop, and it’s over.”
Attleboro head coach Mark Houle was disappointed with the defensive mistake that left Cortijo open but noted several missed opportunities that the Bombardiers had throughout the game that could have made the difference.
“We were in a bit of a match-up zone and we didn’t get to the spots,” he explained. “We had several opportunities to change the game in the first half that we didn’t take advantage of...So, it was a big play by Gerald but it was a 32-minute game and we didn’t do it as well as they did tonight.”
It was Attleboro that jumped out early. The Bombardiers built an 11-4 lead behind seven points from Walsh, but Taunton came right back with a 16-3 run between the first and second quarters. Cortijo was the spark off the bench with nine points during the run including a pair of three’s and a drive that he finished by circling the ball around his back before scoring in traffic.
Taunton went into the break leading 26-22, but early in the third quarter Attleboro started to get the ball inside to good effect. Shawn Reardon showed some nice interior passing to get a pair of lay-ups for E.J. Santarpio. Sophomore Kyle Murphy added a putback basket to give the Bombardiers a 37-35 lead, but Green buried a three to end the quarter (his first points of the game) to put Taunton back on top.
“When we were successful, we started getting the ball inside, running our offense, and getting to the free throw line,” said Houle. “Their defensive pressure was good, but overall the pace of the game, the tempo, was where we wanted it to be.”
In the fourth quarter, Davis started to become more aggressive taking the ball to the basket and had a pair of lay-ups and four free throws in the fourth. He finished with 14 points (10 in the second half) and went over the 1,000-point mark for his career.
“Our execution wasn’t great,” said Dacey about the Tigers offense. “That’s all we talked about at halftime and it got a little better in the second half. With better execution, we get better looks. We forced some shots.”
Attleboro stayed in it, despite solid defense from Green and Cortijo on Walsh, by making its free throws. In one stretch, nine straight points for Attleboro were scored at the line. Santarpio (11 points, seven rebounds) went 5-6 in the fourth quarter from the line.
Dacey applauded the defensive work of his two guards for keeping Walsh mostly under wraps in the second half.
He remarked, “That was the tandem thing. One guy takes him, rests, and the other guy takes him. We know that we can’t stop him; we just want to disrupt him. We made Walsh work for everything and, in my mind, that’s the key.”