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Div. 1 Boys: Taunton 60, Needham 55

TAUNTON, Mass. –- Taunton coach Charlie Dacey may have made the understatement of the season regarding sophomore point guard Shaquille Davis after Thursday’s MIAA Division 1-South first-round game against Needham.

“He wants the ball,” Dacey said after No. 7 Taunton rallied for a 60-55 victory over 10th-seeded Needham. “He’s a sophomore but he wants the ball.

“Too many times he didn’t have the ball. But when he did get the ball he did something very constructive with it. I don’t know what the percentage was but it was a high percentage of him doing something constructive.”

How true.

Davis scored 22 of his overall 31 points in the second half – including 16 in the fourth quarter during which the Tigers (14-3) out-scored the Rockets (15-6) by a 27-15 margin.

“I just had to take over when it got close,” Davis said. “They just gave me the ball and I had to go to work. I wanted to play good defense and just take over on offense and not force any bad shots.”

Davis really “took over” at the free throw line where, because he was able to penetrate, he connected on 87 percent (13-for-15) of his attempts.

In fact, Davis sealed the deal by twice converting both ends of a two-shot foul in the final seconds.

“I had to block everyone out and concentrate,” Davis said of his proficiency at the stripe. “I’ve been practicing after practice on my free throws. They’re free so you’ve got to hit them.”

That Davis was in that position in the first place was noteworthy considering Needham led for all but a few seconds of the first quarter and Taunton didn’t grab its next lead until 5:40 remained in regulation.

Needham led by as many as 11 points (25-14) late in the first half and by seven (42-35) after 38 seconds had elapsed in the fourth quarter.

“We’re young and they’re young,” Dacey said. “We can do some fairly brilliant stuff and then we can shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s sort of the way it went. We just didn’t want to pull away from them.

“The tournament pressure is a matter of who can withstand the jitters that we obviously had in the first half. We scored 43 points in the second half so we began to make sense of things at that point.”

Defense a key: What Davis meant to Taunton on offense so did Gerald Cortijo-Pamilla (13 points) mean to Taunton on defense.

“If we get the ball into the open court we’re effective,” Dacey said. “But that’s predicated on defense. Gerald did a great job pressuring the ball.

“Their whole offense was pushed out much further than where they wanted it, and that made a big difference.”

How big a difference did Taunton’s defense make in pushing out the Rockets?

Needham only shot 29.7 percent (11-26) in the second half which was a key factor in Taunton’s being able to rally.

“Playing defense and upping the tempo of the game … that’s the way we have to play,” Dacey said. “We have don’t have to trap. But if we can force the ball out that far, it’s a long trip to the hoop if they get by us and, hopefully, we’ve got people stepping in and helping out.”

Short trip in first half: Needham’s first-half shooting reflected the fact Taunton wasn’t as effective on defense as it was in the second half.

The Rockets, who were led by Connor McLeod (16 points), Shy Davis (12) and Ryan Charter (12), shot a commendable 48 percent (12-for-25) in the first half which ended with their leading 26-17,

Then, with Needham leading 42-35, Taunton went on a 14-2 run (eight points by Shaquille Davis) and forged a 49-44 lead.

And with 1:10 left in regulation, Charter converted both ends of a one-and-one which pulled Needham within 57-55.

After a Taunton turnover, Shy Davis missed a jumper and Shaquille Davis snared the rebound and was fouled.

He then sank both ends of a two shot foul for a 59-55 lead with 14 seconds left, and Fawaz Mass added a late freebie to set the final score.