A team with minimal experience at the varsity level matured plenty from when they first tipped off in December, but the postseason is a completely different animal, especially for a young team.
Those jitters were apparent as the 10th-seeded Tigers were whistled for traveling on their first three possessions on the road at #10 Marshfield.
But junior Tyler Stewart (23 points, 20 rebounds) cleaned up an offensive rebound for two and sophomore Trent Santos (11 points, five rebounds) drained a three, and just like that, all was right with Taunton.
Those buckets sparked a 10-0 spurt in the first quarter and Taunton dominated the third quarter to the tune of 21-4 to help the Tigers pin down a 64-44 upset of the Rams.
“We had tournament jitters for sure, I get that and kind of expected that,” Dacey said. “Defensively, [the third quarter] was excellent. Josh [Lopes] was leading the charge for us. He was on [Mike] Walsh, he’s their player, and josh did a nice job disrupting him all night long. That was the key because he’s there go-to guy and Josh did a nice job on him.”
Santos sank a second three and Stewart added another putback as Taunton quickly put the nerves in the backseat, taking a 10-4 lead just past the halfway mark of the first.
And then it was a three from junior Nigel Choate (seven points) off the bench, a triple from Lopes (13 points, four rebounds, three assists), and a spot up, contested three from straightaway from sophomore Faisal Mass (seven points) to beat the buzzer capped a 10-3 over the final 1:28 of the first to put Taunton ahead 20-8 after a quarter.
The Rams cut the deficit to seven when Trey O’Connor hit from deep and Evan Mallios converted an offensive rebound but Lopes answered for Taunton and Stewart went to work down low with four straight points. Mass added four more and the Tigers had a 31-22 lead at halftime.
Lopes opened the third with a three and Stewart converted off a feed from Danny MacDougall (five rebounds, three assists) to give the Tigers a good start on the offensive end. But the story was the Tigers’ defense, holding the hosts without a point for nearly four minutes.
The Rams went 0-for-2 from three-point – both contested well – and had a harder time attacking the basket with Stewart in the way. Both Lopes and Santos had steals in that span as well.
When Walsh, the Rams’ top offensive option, finally got his first shot off of the first half, MacDougall got a piece of it from behind. It wasn’t until O’Connor capitalized on a Tiger turnover that the Rams got on the board with 4:25 left in the third.
“It all started with the defense for us,” Stewart said, who also had three blocks. “We really tried to limit their three-point shots, close out hard, and make someone other than Walsh beat us. We focused a lot on him, we wanted to keep the ball out of his hands.
“We talked in the locker room and really emphasized our defense, we talked a lot about closing out on their shots and getting the rebounds. And then that defense led to offense for us.”
Taunton finished the quarter strong, closing on a 16-2 run after the Rams got on the board. Stewart cleaned up his own miss, Santos drilled a shot after a steal, and then Stewart showed some range with an elbow jumper.
Stewart hit two at the line then fought for an offensive rebound, feeding Choate for an easy two plus the foul. MacDougall had another block and linked up with Stewart again, and then Lopes pickpocketed a Ram and went in for a layup while being fouled, completing the three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter to seize a 52-26 lead.
Through three quarters, Lopes and the Tigers limited Walsh to 1-for-10 shooting, the lone make being a three in the final minute of the first.
“Tyler should be getting a touch every time down the floor, no matter what they are doing defensively, no matter how we are shooting good or bad…he can make things happen,” Dacey said. “He had the size [advantage] and he’s got some athleticism, he’s not a stiff down there. He can create once he gets the ball in the right place, and if they send a double at him he knows what to do and it’s helped discourage teams from doubling.
“Josh stepped up [on the offensive end] too, and Trent made some threes for us. Nigel had a big three for us too. When we settle down, we’re fine but a typical young team, we have our moments.”
The Tigers spent the majority of the fourth running the shot clock down before getting a look. Stewart added four more, Santos had three, Lopes and MacDougall two each, and sophomore Tristan Herry, who battled foul trouble in the first half, had a free throw.
Taunton boys basketball (15-5) will take a ride up Route 24 on Friday to take on #2 Brockton (16-4) at 6:30.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Coming into Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 South preliminary round game, Taunton had never beaten North Attleboro. The Tigers had a couple of ties against the Rocketeers prior to joining the Hockomock League, but no wins. They found the perfect time to change that record.
Behind a strong performance from senior goalie Sean Bunker (36 saves) and a pair of breakaway goals, Taunton came from behind for 2-1 victory at the New England Sports Village, overcoming North’s 37-14 edge in shots on goals.
“He played awesome,” Taunton coach Kris Metea said. “He has big game experience. He knows that no rebounds means no goals, and he controlled everything, he smothered everything, and got us whistles. He did everything we needed him to do.”
Bunker made 17 saves in the first period alone and had several memorable stops, including a diving glove save to rob Jack Connolly in the opening period, a big pad stop on a Dennis Morehouse breakaway with three minutes to play, and a flash of his glove to stop Will Yeomans in the final minute.
“There were a lot of pucks lying around that we’ve got put it in,” North coach Ben McManama said. “We’ve got to bear down, but that’s been us all year. We want the easy goals but we’ve got to work harder to get those dirty, greasy goals. I thought we played pretty well.”
North came out flying to start the game, putting 18 shots on goal in the first and using its size and physicality to keep the Tigers pinned back in the defensive zone. Matt McSweeney had a chance at the post after a puck rebounded off the back boards, but Bunker got his pad down to make the stop and to block the ensuing scrum.
After five minutes, the pressure paid off with the opening goal. Tyler Sarro drove down the right wing and got below the goal line before firing a pass to the edge of the crease where Brady Sarro was on hand to redirect the pass through the five-hole from point-blank range.
Taunton had a couple of chances in the first. Michael Albert had a shot from the right circle on a quick transition and Colton Scheralis had a pair of chances at the post that Nick Digiacomo (12 saves) was able to smother.
The Rocketeers thought they had doubled their lead with three minutes left in the period. Morehouse gained the zone and fired a shot towards goal that took a deflection to Connolly at the far post. The forward knocked the loose puck towards what appeared to be an empty net, only to have Bunker dive across and make the stop.
In the second period, North managed eight shots, but struggled at times to gain the zone. The Taunton defense looked more comfortable than in the first, although Metea said there were no significant changes between periods.
“We knew that in the first period we were going to have to weather the storm,” Metea explained. “We said, you’re in the game, just keep doing what you have to do, box it up, stay tight, wait for your opportunities. They stayed with it and it was awesome.”
With 11:32 left in the second, Taunton used its lone scoring chance of the period to tie the game. Connor McGrath flipped a puck out of the zone and the North defense struggled to control the bounce. Albert pounced and got a free skate at goal. Taunton’s leading scorer planted a shot just under the bar on the glove save to make it 1-1.
North had a flurry late in the period. Jeff Baker picked out Nick Longa right in front of goal, but Bunker made the pad stop. Jake McNeany was allowed to skate right down the slot but his chance went just wide and then McSweeney collected the loose puck and forced another big save from the Taunton netminder.
“They give us fits because they block shots, they do the right things, and they’re tougher in front of the net then we are,” said McManama. “That’s it. They were tougher in the dirty areas and my hat’s off to them. We’ve got to play through that better.”
Both teams had chances early in the third to try and grab the lead. North used the defensemen and threw bodies in front to try and cause problems for Bunker. On the other end, Digiacomo had to be quick with the blocker to stop a shot through a screen.
Connolly had a pair of chances for the Rocketeers. He drove behind the net and faked Bunker out to open space at the post, but the puck rolled off his stick as he went to score. Sam Clarke then set Connolly up inside the right face-off dot but he sent his shot just past the top corner.
“We missed the net a ton tonight,” said McManama. “We had a lot of shots on goal but we had even more shot attempts, a ton more. We’ve got to hit the net.”
The missed chances came back to haunt North. Scheralis slipped a puck through a pair of defensemen at the blue line and into the path of fellow freshman McGrath. The forward raced in alone on goal and showed great composure to fire a shot into the top corner for a shock lead.
Metea said, “We knew that they come in so hard that one pass through the ‘D’ will probably allow us to flip it out to center and allow our wings to go to work. I felt confident we could beat them in a footrace and we got the chances off that and I’m thankful that they stepped in.”
North was increasingly desperate for an equalizer as time wore down, but Bunker continued to be unbeatable. He stuffed Morehouse on a break down the right wing and then showed quick hands to deny Yeomans after Nik Kojoian teed him up right in front of goal.
“North played great, but Sean was equal to the test,” said Metea. “Goaltenders are the greatest equalizer and if you have a good one then you’re going to be in games.”
Taunton (10-9-3) will try to get some more strong play from Bunker and upset another league opponent when it travels to top seed Canton on Wednesday night.
Taunton athletic director Mark Ottavianelli recently announced that Carrie Consalvi will take over as the new softball coach this spring. She replaces legendary coach Dave Lewry in the Taunton dugout, following his retirement in November after 20 successful seasons in charge of the program.
“It’s super successful,” said Consalvi about the draw of taking over at Taunton. “It’s full of kids who are talented and super-motivated, and obviously has a big tradition of being successful and working hard. I kind of would rearrange my life to do this, to walk into this and not have to start from ground zero and not have to worry about motivating athletes. They’re going to come to me motivated.”
After starting her collegiate career at Sacred Heart, Consalvi played three years at Bridgewater State. A catcher and designated player, Consalvi was selected to the school’s Hall of Fame. She batted .387 for her career, helping the Bears win three straight MASCAC titles, appear in three straight Div. III World Series, earning three straight all-conference selections, and twice was named a Div. III second team All-American.
Consalvi spent one season coaching JV softball at her alma mater, Quabbin Regional, and was an assistant coach for three years at BSU. In the past few years, as her daughter has become more interested in softball, Consalvi made trips up from her home on the Cape to coach in the Taunton Youth Softball program.
She explained, “I really always loved the college level, the high school level and to have an opportunity when you have a town that has such a great foundation for softball; it’s like a breeding ground for softball. I just think I have so much as a female former player and coach to give them.”
The chance to take over one of the state’s perennial powers and a program that has strong foundations in terms of talent was one that Consalvi couldn’t pass up, even if it meant the formidable challenge of following in Lewry’s footsteps.
“It’s huge shoes to fill, but when talking with him I think our philosophies really lined up a lot,” Consalvi said. “Just getting an opportunity to understand and know how he felt about the sport and the team and how he ran things, we kind of shared some similar philosophies.”
She continued, “I’m sure that I’m going to do things a little differently than he would, so my concern is how are we going to learn to understand and communicate with each other to be successful. The meetings I’ve had have been really positive. I’m sure they were nervous, who is this person coming in and do they not only know the game but do they understand us as female student-athletes, and so far I think we already mesh well.”
Consalvi has met with her captains for the upcoming season and is excited to get started building on last year’s league title and the 2018 state title.
“As a team, ourselves, I would expect us to have those goals,” Consalvi said about the lofty expectations around the team. “We always strive to be the best we can be. There’s this big sort of pressure around us because they’ve won multiple league titles and won multiple state titles. Just speaking with the captains in recent weeks, I know that the kids are hungry to get back out there and to start getting their feet dirty and making strides to going after the league title.”
Considering the level of competition across the league, winning a title is never a foregone conclusion but Consalvi sees that challenge as a positive to get the team prepared for a postseason run.
“I think we’re really fortunate that the towns and the teams around us are so strong,” she said. “Anyone who comes out of the league is going to be a contender in states because they’re always playing such great competition.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – Each time the Taunton boys basketball team hits the court, the first option in the offensive game plan is to get junior Tyler Stewart the ball.
The Tigers didn’t need to look for a second or third option many times on Tuesday night as Stewart, a 6’5 center, delivered a career-high 34 points to lead the hosts to a 73-63 win over visiting Stoughton. With the win, Taunton punched its ticket for the postseason.
Stewart, who also hauled in 13 rebounds and had a pair of blocks, shot 16-of-24 from two-point range and came away with points after each of his nine offensive rebounds to lead the way for the Tigers.
“What a night,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey about Stewart’s performance. “When we’re practicing, there are all sorts of convolutions we expect people to do to him, and we were expecting doubles from all over the place and it just didn’t happen tonight. If you leave him alone down low, obviously he can do some business. He’s used to waiting for the double and he’s able to finish when he’s close to the rim like that.”
Taunton wasted little time getting Stewart the ball as he scored the first two buckets for the home team, including a three-point play on the first possession of the game.
Only five times in the game did a possession that included a shot from Stewart not result in points for Taunton. He had back-to-back misses early in the first quarter, and another one later that resulted in a missed putback from a teammate. He converted his only other miss of the first with a putback of his own.
He did the same with his lone miss of the second quarter and shot 5-for-7 in the third quarter, but one miss was a full-court heave to try and beat the buzzer. And in the fourth, he had just three shots but the one time he missed, he gathered the offensive rebound and scored himself.
“That’s always going to be the first look, getting Tyler a touch,” Dacey said. “If the double comes, we can kick it out but he’s our go-to guy. And the rest of the league has smartened up on Trent [Santos], Canton was denying him the ball and Mansfield is just Mansfield, they can deny anyone. But if they deny those guys, that leaves Tyler down low. And Danny [MacDougall] and Faisal [Mass] are doing a good job recognizing the double team.”
Stewart’s early success (14 points in the opening quarter) resulted in a big lead for the Tigers after eight minutes (18-6). Taunton added 19 more points in the second quarter, getting four apiece from sophomore Faisal Mass (14 points, seven rebounds) and junior Josh Lopes (eight points, four assists), and a pair of layups from sophomore Tristan Herry (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) and junior Nigel Choate.
But Stoughton’s offense showed signs of life as well, with senior guard Ahmad Jahed (eight rebounds, five assists) scoring half of his 16 points in the second quarter and Myles Grigalunas-Powell (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Donte Tyler hitting three-pointers to get the Black Knights within 11, down 37-26, at halftime.
Stewart scored eight points early in the third with Trent Santos (from Danny MacDougall), Mass, and Choate also chipping in as the Tigers stretched the lead to 17 points, up 49-32 with 3:30 to play in the third quarter.
Stoughton turned to the three-point line to get back into the game and found success, closing the third quarter on a 12-4 run. Grigalunas-Powell, Brett Pendenza, Jake Queeney, and Obinna Ugwuakazi (12 points, eight rebounds) all connected down downtown to cut the deficit to 53-44 entering the fourth.
Queeney and Ugwuakazi sandwiched three-pointers around a make from Stewart to open the fourth quarter and suddenly Stoughton was down just five with seven minutes to play. After Taunton missed on back-to-back three-point chances, they got the ball back down low to Stewart, who ended up grabbing his own miss and putting it off the glass.
Another stop preceded a free throw from Lopes to make it 58-50 with 5:26 to play and Mass drove the baseline with a strong take to push the advantage back to double figures, 60-50, with 4:39 left.
“He’s really improved over the course of the season,” Dacey said of Mass. “He was in football shape at the beginning of the year and now he’s got a little bit of quickness, he has the toughness…and he’s just a sophomore too. It was just important for us to get into a flow because we didn’t on Friday night.”
Mass scored twice more in crunch time with Herry and Lopes each adding buckets as Taunton increased its lead to 68-54. Queeney sank another three late to make it an 11-point game but Stoughton was unable to get the deficit within single digits again.
“We started to relax,” Dacey said. “And we’re not young anymore, that’s no longer an excuse. The sophomores have had a ton of experience now. There’s no such thing as relaxing in this league, especially against that team. They play on emotion and I didn’t want them to get going, because when they get going they are tough. They are so athletic, they can obviously hit the three, so they can get back into a game pretty quickly.”
Taunton boys basketball (7-4 Hockomock, 11-4 overall) will visit Oliver Ames on Friday. OA nipped Taunton with a three-pointer in the final seconds in the first meeting on December 18th. Stoughton (4-7 Hockomock, 7-8 overall) will travel to North Attleboro on the same night. The Black Knights handed Big Red a loss in the first meeting.