Taylor’s boys basketball team used a dominant fourth quarter to beat Eastern 49-41 in the Howard County Tournament opener Friday night at Center Court.
The Titans trailed 39-29 in the final minute of the third quarter — then outscored the Comets 20-2 the rest of the way including 18-2 in the fourth quarter. The Comets scored with :05 left to avoid a goose egg for the quarter.
Taylor coach Andy Lewman wondered if his team had let the game slip away when the Comets surged to the 10-point lead.
“I looked up [at the scoreboard] and thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Lewman said. “I had been trying to get the kids to push the tempo a little bit more since early in the the second quarter, maybe since late in the first quarter. We finally did it in the fourth quarter. And what we did probably more than push the tempo was we finally picked up our defensive pressure and that made a big difference for us.”
Indeed, the Titans’ hustle and defense sparked the big quarter. After Latrell Mitchell scored on a putback, Mitchell came up with a steal that led to Calvin Wheeler scoring in transition. Following an Eastern timeout, Taylor came up with another steal and Cole Schroeder cashed in with a pair of free throws at 5:26, bringing Taylor within 39-37.
Taylor (3-5) went in front for good when Darian Stone drilled a 3-pointer off Mitchell’s post kickout for a 40-39 lead at 4:40, prompting Eastern to call another timeout.
The Titans sealed the win by scoring five more points off of turnovers to go up 47-39 at 1:16.
Lewman liked his squad’s effort in the quarter.
“It was us just finally getting back to being scrappy, doing the things we work on every day,” Lewman said. “The kids did a great job of responding because I challenged them. We got to the point where it was do or we’re going to get beat. The kids came out and responded. We did a good job of rallying among ourselves and just competing every play.”
Eastern (1-6) seemed to have taken control of the game in the third quarter. The Titans led 20-17 at halftime, but the Comets came out on fire, hitting their first six shots from the field to seize a 32-25 lead midway through the quarter. They went on to lead 39-29 before their offense ran dry.
The Comets were 1 of 8 from the field and 0 of 4 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
“The kids are playing hard. Things just didn’t go our way the last quarter,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said. “That third quarter, we made a lot of good things happen, and Taylor made a lot of good things happen in the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t get it in the hoop.”
Both teams were flat in the first quarter. Taylor was 2 of 12 from the field with five turnovers and Eastern was 1 of 7 with seven turnovers. The Titans were up 6-3 at the close of the quarter.
Action picked up in the second quarter. Noah Cope hit three 3-pointers to spark the Comets while Mitchell scored three post baskets to lead the Titans — and the teams had just three combined turnovers.
Taylor showed good offensive balance. Wheeler led the Center crew with 14 points, Stone and Mitchell had 12 apiece and Schroeder had nine.
“I feel like one of our strengths is being able to be in a situation where we’re sharing the ball and doing a good job of finishing,” Lewman said. “We did a much better job of finishing in the fourth quarter.”
Mitchell had nine rebounds and KeShawn Stabler added seven for the Titans.
Gibson led the Comets with 15 points, Cope had 11 points and Jacob Kinder had eight points and nine boards.
Eastern, which was playing its first game since Dec. 21, was rusty at the start and cold at the end (2 of 15 from the field over the first and fourth quarters). The Comets were 13 of 23 in the middle two quarters.