MILFORD, Mass. – Early in the second quarter, Taunton and Milford was a back-and-forth game and neither team was able to wrest control from the other. The largest lead for either team to that point was just three points. Then the visiting Tigers locked down on the defensive end and put themselves in the driver’s seat.
Taunton scored 14 straight points and dominated the second quarter, outscoring Milford 21-6 in the frame, to provide the separation it needed to pull out a 54-40 road victory. Nine different players scored at least two points for the Tigers.
“I think they just got confident,” said Siggens about what prompted the big run. “We changed up our defense a little and they got one or two picks and then they just started feeling it. We were taking care of the ball, making good passes, good decisions, and I think the way these kids fight they get the love from the bench and the adrenaline gets flowing.”
Things were even at the end of the first. Both teams had five different players get on the score sheet in the opening eight minutes and no player had more than four points.
Brooke Ferreira and Jillian Michelson each knocked down threes in the quarter, Carly Ferreira scored on a drive to the rim, and Jess Douglas tied the game at 12-12 with a transition basket after Brooke Ferreira’s defensive board.
Taunton got four points from freshman Maddie Michenzie in the first and started to dominate the glass, with put-backs by Kameron St. Pierre (five points, six rebounds, six steals, and three assists) and Sonya Fernandez (five points and 13 rebounds).
“We’ve been really working on playing together and moving the ball and I thought we did that really, really well once we settled into that first half,” said Siggens. “This is stuff that we’re still learning but the way they stepped up and improved, we just keep adding things onto that stuff.”
Michelson scored first in the second quarter, off an assist by Emma Lawrence (nine points and 11 rebounds), but Jaelyn Fernandez tied it with a lefty scoop. St. Pierre drilled her only three of the game to put Taunton up by three and then Lawrence made it a one-point game with a pair at the line.
Milford only managed two more points in the quarter, as Taunton broke the game wide open. Abby Souza (five points) got the run started with a three and Braeley McDonald added four points. Eighth grader Sam Lincoln finished the 14-0 run with a drive and lefty finish. She also added a basket after an offensive rebound, finishing with six of her team-high 10 points in the quarter.
“They’re young and they’re coachable,” Siggens said of Lincoln and Michenzie, who were both recently called up to varsity. “They want to be here and they want to learn, so anything we tell them to do they try to do it. You just have to throw them to the wolves to get that experience that they need to play in this league.
Turnovers and rebounding were the story for the Hawks in the first and they struggled to try and get back into the game after Taunton’s big run.
“We’re just not built to go on big runs,” said Milford coach TJ Dolliver. “We turn the ball over way too much. There’s a lot of little things that we need to get better at. There’s a lot of types of turnovers that drive me nuts on the sidelines because you didn’t have to make that decision.”
In the third quarter, the Tigers continued to use balanced scoring to extend the lead. Jaelyn Fernandez (seven points) scored three, Souza added a bucket after Sonya Fernandez’s steal and assist, Kristy Gorman chipped in with four, and Lincoln and Michenzie each scored two points.
The only thing keeping the game from getting completely out of hand was Michelson. The junior guard scored 10 of her team’s 11 points in the quarter, twice getting baskets off of steals, and finished with a game-high 18 total.
“She’s done so much better this year scoring the ball,” Dolliver explained. “She’s slowly progressing as a player. Last year, as tough as a battle as it was for us, all of the girls that are still on the team were only sophomores and they’re still only juniors. Without a senior in the program, it’s about just getting better and then going after it.”
Offense was at a premium in the fourth quarter, as the teams combined to knock down four shots from the field. Brooke Ferreira (seven points) hit three free throws and assisted on a Michelson three, as the Hawks managed to hang around and cut the lead from 22 back down to 14 at the final whistle.