Taylor’s boys basketball team saw three players score in double digits and even gave the home crowd three dunks to roar about in Friday night’s Hoosier Heartland Conference matchup with Rossville at Center Court.
And still, at the end of the night, the Titans were left searching for their first win of the season after falling 73-60 to the Hornets.
Toric Spires netted a team-high 19 points that included a pair of dunks and grabbed nine rebounds for Taylor (0-8, 0-3 HHC) while teammates Ryley Gilbert and Tyler Hall added a dozen points apiece with Hall adding a nice jam for the Titans.
But Rossville (8-4 overall) rode hot shooting and a fantastic game from Dirk Shaw to remain undefeated in HHC play at 3-0. The defending HHC champion Hornets shot 49% (30 of 61) for the game with Shaw notching a monster double-double with game highs of 27 points and 19 rebounds.
“They’re a good basketball team and Cory [Dunn] is a really good, young coach,” Taylor coach Dennis Bentzler said. “They stay structured and they were hard to guard. They got some mismatches with No. 12 [Shaw]. He’s a nice player. Him and [Luke Meek] we were concerned with coming in but Shaw, he was the guy. He plays well at both ends.”
The Titans were able to hold Meek to six points but Reid Douglas stepped up for the Hornets with 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
Rossville used a pair of big runs to break open the game in the first half. With the Titans leading 4-2, the Hornets closed the first quarter on a 13-4 run with Douglas’ 3-pointer just before time expired leaving Taylor facing a 17-8 deficit.
Spires got the Titans within four, 19-15, when he followed a triple with a quick two off of a turnover less than two minutes into the second quarter, but Rossville responded with what was likely the game’s deciding run, a 13-2 flurry capped by another Douglas three with 1:04 showing that put the Hornets up 32-17. Quick hoops from Quinten Tucker and Hall with under :20 to play got Taylor within 32-21 at the half.
Rossville finished the first half 14 of 31 from the field (45%) and 3 of 9 (33%) from 3-land. By comparison, Taylor shot 10 of 30 overall (33%) hitting just 1 of 13 3-point attempts.
“We hurt ourselves early,” Bentzler said. “We took so many bad shots in the first half and we got down and were down 15 but our kids didn’t quit.
“The first half in particular we were like 1 for 10 from the arc or something like that but then in the second half we started to attack the basket a little bit more. I thought we created some things defensively and we were just scrambling and playing hard if nothing else.”
The Titans started to find a better offensive rhythm in the third quarter, penetrating and getting to the free throw line for the first time, where they converted 6 of 8 freebies in the frame. Spires added both of his dunks in the period, though he was whistled for a technical foul on his first one for hanging on the rim, which all but took away the momentum he had quickly stirred up with the breakaway jam.
Shaw netted eight of his 19 second-half points in the third period as the Hornets, managed to build on their lead, taking a 54-37 advantage into the final frame.
Taylor’s last-ditch effort came at the start of the fourth quarter when the Titans scored the first seven points of a 9-2 run, started with a Spires 3-pointer and followed with a Hall dunk. Hall and Spires then connected on four free throw attempts to get Taylor within 56-46 with 6:13 remaining. But Rossville matched and went above Taylor’s efforts the rest of the way to maintain its safe advantage until the final horn.