TAUNTON, Mass. – Taunton went into halftime of Wednesday night’s season finale trailing New Bedford by two but the Tigers stormed out of the locker rooms for the second straight game and took control. They opened the second half with a 23-3 run and pushed the lead as high as 18 in the third quarter.
The Whalers did not lie down and came right back with a 16-5 run and twice got the Taunton lead down to four points in the final quarter, but the Tigers held onto their lead and pulled out a 62-54 victory, giving Taunton back-to-back wins to end the season.
“We’re so young tonight because we’re missing so many of our starters,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “We panicked a little bit when we got up by 18, thought we were going to have an easy fourth quarter but give New Bedford credit they had a good effort to get back in it. I thought our young kids were pretty resilient at the end.”
Although neither team will be heading to the playoffs this year, and despite Taunton missing three starters, the game got off to a fast pace. Both offenses clicked into gear and both teams were using high pressure on the ball to try and create transition opportunities.
Senior Alexa White scored the game’s first five points, but New Bedford stayed close behind nine points from Andrea Segura (14 points). Jaelyn Fernandez (nine points) also got off to a strong start for the Tigers, scoring seven points in the first, including a basket off an Abby Souza (11 points) assist that tied the game 17-17 after one.
The second quarter slowed down considerably. Sonya Fernandez grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to make it 21-19 after more than four minutes were gone in the second. After New Bedford tied it, Taunton went on a 5-0 run, including a steal and layup by White and a jumper by Thalia Nogueira.
New Bedford came right back with a 7-0 run of its own and hit a jumper with the clock winding down to go into halftime ahead 28-26.
Everything worked for the Tigers in the third quarter. The defense was forcing turnovers left and right and the offense was making shots. Taunton turned the game on its head and pulled away for what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
Harrigan said, “It was a pretty nice quarter and we had the same thing last night at Durfee. We were down 12 at the half and we just started to move the ball much better. With some of the young kids, we can’t put in as much of the offense right now, so we’re running a lot of basic things but they did a lot of things right tonight.”
White got it started with a transition basket off of a Souza pass and then Souza got a steal and layup of her own. White drilled a three after Kyanna Barros kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound and then Barros grabbed another board and finished to put Taunton up seven.
After a New Bedford basket, Sonya Fernandez took the ball to the basket and then Souza drained a three. White turned a steal into an easy basket, Fernandez got a layup off a Barros pass, and then Nogueira set up Souza for a basket with a rebound and scoop pass in traffic.
Taunton had the chance to put the game away but the Whalers got some hope from Monica Eires (17 points), who hit the third of her five three-pointers. In the fourth quarter, New Bedford rallied behind four points from Segura and a pair of threes from Eires.
White (18 points and five assists) scored off a Braeley MacDonald assist to push the lead back to six points and then Fernandez (18 points and 12 rebounds) showed strength in the post to answer another basket by the visitors. A pair of free throws by Fernandez and another layup for White sealed the victory and gave the Tigers a positive end to the season.
“We sometimes force a little bit and the last couple games we’ve been more disciplined,” said Harrigan. “We did some good things against a tough New Bedford team.” When asked about winning on back-to-back nights to close the season, he added, “Especially for the younger kids and the ones moving up, it’s good to see it.”
Taunton closed the regular season at 7-15.