The Tigers extended their defense to full-court pressure from the second quarter on, and while it had some positives on the defensive end, its biggest impact was changing the pace to where Taunton wanted it to be.
That tempo kicked Taunton’s offense into gear and the hosts combined a strong finish to the third quarter with a hot start to the fourth to run away with a 64-52 win over visiting Foxboro.
“We had to,” Dacey said of the decision to press. The Tigers had just three buckets in the first quarter, shooting under 20%. “I think we got into a good tempo [with the press]. We’re able to run around, we didn’t really turn them over but it sped the game up and got it to where we wanted it.”
The Warriors had their best stretch in the middle of the third quarter anchored by senior Alex Penders (21 points, 10 rebounds), who sat out the entire second quarter due to foul trouble. Penders sparked an 11-2 run for Foxboro, assisting or scoring on the first four buckets of the run while Sam Golub capped it with a three-pointer off an offensive rebound and assist from Ryan Cotter. That run presented Foxboro with its lone lead of the second half, 38-33.
Taunton took the punch and countered with one of its own, landing a 12-2 run in response. Troy Santos (17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) drained a three after an offensive rebound from Dimari Brown, and Chris Volcy (18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals) turned a steal into a traditional three-point lead down the other end, giving the Tigers the lead back for good. Volcy and Santos each added two more and Chris Perault (22 points, 5 rebounds) capitalized on a turnover for two and a 45-40 lead going into the fourth.
“If we’re not shooting well, which we didn’t tonight, we have to find our points in other ways,” Dacey said. Taunton went 9-for-10 from the free throw line, scored 20 points off turnovers, and 17 second chance points. “It’s not the most attractive sometimes, but guys like Volcy will do the work to get them. Dimari had a couple offensive rebounds in his first varsity start.
“You have to piece it together because [Foxboro] isn’t easy to play. They’re disciplined. You get that element in your game, that makes you a better team.”
The Tigers carried the momentum into the fourth and duplicated that run, opening the fourth with another 12-2 surge. Perault opened the scoring and then converted a putback after an early turnover from the Warriors. Penders cleaned up his own miss to keep Foxboro within seven, but a steal from Volcy led to a three from Santos and then Volcy sank a triple of his own. After a Foxboro miss, Santos got a layup and suddenly the Tigers had a comfortable lead at 57-42 with four minutes to play.
“I thought mentally our response wasn’t as good as it needed to be when they went on that run,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “We lost our focus and composure a little bit and didn’t stick to the plan as much as we needed to. When you do that against a team that is as explosive as Taunton, things can snowball really quickly. If you can’t focus on the one play that you’re on, the game can get away from you quickly and that’s what you saw tonight. We’re going to use it as a learning experience and it’s a good reminder we have to stay present and win the possession we’re on.
“I thought Taunton was able to get the game to the tempo they wanted in the second half, it was in their pace. Against them, we wanted to make it more of a half court game and their press sped us up. Even though there were a lot of possessions that we ultimately got good shots and good looks, it was in their tempo and over time, that favored them.”
Penders scored half of Foxboro’s 14 first quarter points and hauled in three rebounds, but was hit with his third foul with 1:30 to go. Ryan Kelley added a first quarter three while Sam Golub (9 points, 6 rebounds) and Ryan Cotter also scored as the Warriors staked a 14-6 lead.
Taunton boys basketball (8-3 Hockomock, 10-4 overall) hits the road to visit North Attleboro on Friday while Foxboro (5-6, 9-6) takes a trip to division-leading Mansfield.