But Oliver Ames refused to go away, closing the frame on a 12-2 run to make it a one-possession game with one quarter to play. The host Tigers carried that momentum into the final frame, tying the game on a triple from Jay Spillane (nine points) and going up 44-41 on a layup from Spillane and a free throw from Ethan Eckstrom (11 points, nine rebounds).
After turning a 13-point lead into a three-point advantage with just under six minutes to go, it appeared all of the momentum was with the hosts.
But Taunton delivered an immediate response as senior John Martins (nine points, three assists) converted a three from the corner while being fouled, essentially equalizing the momentum.
Although Martins missed the free throw, he did connect on his next six attempts from the line to help Taunton come away with a 53-50 win over Oliver Ames.
“It energized us for sure and deflated them a little bit,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey on Martins’ first made triple of the game. “We needed to be more patient in the second half. But it was a good test today. We’re far more mature this season. Part of it is the personalities and part of it is the senior leadership John and Mike Quinn are good leaders, excellent students, and good quality kids. And the others seem to be buying in to what they are saying.”
After tying the game, Taunton got a stop with Martins hauling in the rebound while being fouled. He sank both attempts to go up 46-44. After the teams traded empty possessions over the next two minutes, OA’s Jake Erlich (eight points, five rebounds) converted down low to tie the game with 2:56 to play.
Martins drove a blocking call on the other end and hit both free throws to make it 48-46. OA had an inbounds pass just over half court but high pressure resulted in a loose ball and Quinn (11 points) pounced on it and went down the court for a layup and a 50-46 lead with 2:28 to play.
Erlich got OA within two and Eckstrom tied the game with two free throws with just under a minute to go. Taunton ran a play to get Martins an open layup on the back side and he was fouled, again going to the line and hitting two free throws to make it 52-50.
“I don’t expect any different from them,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron about his team’s comeback efforts in the second half. “They practice really well, they don’t cheat you on the effort end. We’ve been in those situations, we were in it against Stoughton. We tell them to expect to get hit in the mouth twice in each half. Someone’s going to make a run and you have to be able to withstand it. We’d knew Taunton would have spurts but we told them to just keep playing and to their credit, they did.”
Taunton got another stop with Wesner Charles (eight points) hauling in one of his game-high 18 rebounds and Lou Vendrell hit one of two attempts from the free throw line with 23 seconds left to make it 53-50.
Charles’ dominance on the boards helped Taunton win the battle of the boards, 34-22, and held OA to just six offensive rebounds.
“He’s a tough kid, he works his tail off and he doesn’t score about getting points,” Dacey said of Charles. “How many times do you find that in a high school kid? We need a player like that.”
OA had two chances in the final 15 seconds to try and tie it but one three was off the mark and a turnover three as the buzzer was wide.
Taunton opened the second half on an 11-4 run to turn a two-possession advantage into a 39-26 lead. Oliver Ames responded with pressure on the defensive end, extending its press out to create some chances offensively.
The other switch came early in the quarter but paid off throughout the frame as the host Tigers elected to post some of their guards, manly senior Sean O’Brien (13 points), up in the post. After a bucket from Eckstrom, O’Brien scored five straight points to half the deficit. Eckstrom converted a putback to make it a four-point game only for Taunton junior Dante Law (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) to answer with a thunderous two-handed slam on a breakaway,
OA’s Ryan Burkett converted a traditional three-point play with under 30 seconds left in the third to make it a one-possession game.
“We went 2-2-1 [press] three quarter and had a couple of things happen that worked well for us,” Byron said. “We got them into a couple of trap areas and converted off of that. We played a smaller lineup for a good portion of that, going with three guards.
“O’Brien [posts up] pretty well for a little guy, he carves out pretty well. He gives away from size but its worked for us with him there.”
Taunton led by one, 13-12, after the first quarter with Quinn and O’Brien each hitting a pair of triples. The visiting Tigers outscored OA 15-10 in the second quarter to lead 28-22 at the break.
Taunton boys basketball (2-0 Hockomock, 2-0 overall) is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to take on Foxboro (0-2). Oliver Ames (1-1, 1-1) is also on the road, traveling to play North Attleboro (0-2).
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