SHARON, Mass. -– There are times when Taunton looks unstoppable offensively. The Tigers get into a rhythm, the defense creates turnovers, they get out on the break and into the lane, and it appears as though every shot is going to fall.
At the start of the third quarter in Tuesday night’s Hockomock League clash at Sharon, Taunton found one of those grooves. The Tigers scored the opening eight points of the second half and rattled off 21 points in 4 minutes and 17 seconds to break open what was, to that point, a tight game with the Eagles.
Sharon tried to fight back, getting as close as 12 points late in the third quarter, but thanks to that early second half surge, Taunton comfortably held on to a 74-59 win and improved to 10-1 on the season.
“They came out right away in the second half and upped it to 18-20 and we just never really recovered from that,” said Sharon head coach Bruce Jackman. “It was like a knock-out punch.”
Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey credited a defensive switch at halftime for creating turnovers and allowing the team to have a strong third quarter.
“We switched from a zone press to a man-to-man press and we can do that and we got the reaction, which was positive,” he said. “It opened up a little gap for us and then the game is played differently.”
Taunton senior guard Shaquille Davis sparked the second half outburst by knocking down a three-pointer, dishing to a wide open Gerald Cortijo-Pamilla for another three, and then finishing at the basket. Davis is beginning to find his scoring touch after a tough start to the season and, on Tuesday, led all scorers with 20 points.
“I was in a little slump at the beginning of the season, but I’m finally coming out of it,” said Davis after the game. “I was also trying to make my team better.”
The Eagles star player Brian Mukasa finished with 15 points, but he was forced to work for all of them against a rotation of Taunton guards, including Cortijo-Pamilla, Fawaz Mass, and sophomore Corey Green. Taunton held the high scoring guard to just 5-15 from the field and 2-6 from three-point range.
“We want to deny him the ball, which is pretty hard to do,” said Dacey about the plan for defending Mukasa. “We had three kids running at him all night long and, you know, he had to work for everything. I thought we played well tonight.”
Jackman noted, “Their guards are real good, they’re physical, and we’re just not as physical as they are right now. They’re very good and they’re very strong. We just couldn’t handle it.”
Taunton jumped out early with the first eight points of the game, but Sharon (7-5) dropped into a zone, which frustrated the Tigers and did not allow them to get out on the break. The Eagles battled back to end the opening quarter down just one at 13-12. The second quarter showed a much improved offensive effort from the Tigers following a dismal 3-14 shooting performance in the first. Taunton outscored Sharon 24-15 to open up a 10-point halftime lead. Davis had nine points at the half as did Sharon senior captain Kevin Bartas.
Senior forward Anthony Parker was strong again for Taunton, finishing with 16 points (10 in the second half) and 6 rebounds to help make up for the loss of fellow forward Enrique Perez to a sprained ankle. Cortijo-Pamilla (13 points, four steals) and Green (12 points on 5-5 shooting) also finished in double digits.
Dacey was impressed by the maturation of his young guard.
“He (Green) was big. Twelve points and he played great defense,” he remarked. “He’s coming along nicely."
The Eagles had three players join Mukasa in double digits. Bartas, who had nine at the half, finished with 11 points, senior Ian Beach had 10 (eight in the second half), and junior James Fritzon (3-9 from three-point range) battled illness to score 13.
Jackman gave credit for his team’s struggles (the Eagles shot just 21-62 from the field) to the talent on the Taunton squad.
“Once we get down by 15 or 16 and we get out of our offensive sets,” he explained. “A lot of that has to do with them (Taunton). That’s why they’ve only lost one game.”
Taunton will play its next three games at home including a showdown with New Bedford on Sunday. Sharon will face rival Stoughton on Friday in a critical league game for both teams.