PLAY BALL — Peyton Johnson pressures the defense on the way to the hoop. Herald Photo / Slater Young
PLAY BALL — Peyton Johnson pressures the defense on the way to the hoop. Herald Photo / Slater Young
The Taylor Titans showcased what it looked like to play all 32 minutes and four quarters of high school basketball Monday night. 

Taking on a team that previously had beat them 66 to 61 a month prior, the Titans now look to take out any competitor in the way of its sectional championship. 

“I was really happy with how we came out there and showed pressure against Jack Bennett who had put up something like 29 points or something crazy like that against us the last time we played Elwood,” said Titans Coach Jacob Leicht. “We wanted to come out and kind of be physical with him and make sure he wasn’t going to get any easy looks to get going early, and I thought we did a good job with him.”

Aside from the Titans’ prominent start defensively against Bennett, who was held to only two points in the first half, they remained tight against the entire Elwood lineup. Only allowing a total of 17 points compared to Taylor’s 27, the Titans were off to a good start on both sides of the ball.

“For the most part, defensively, we were able to stay on top of them, only allowing 17 points and something like 20-percent shooting percentage, which we were pretty happy with,” said Leicht.

Senior Malin Vasquez showed up in the first half, producing a total of 11 points. Alongside Vasquez was the second-quarter surprise performance from Bailey Owens, who dropped two three-pointers to add to the offensive shootout, giving him a total of eight points in the half. 

“The thing about Bailey is he is a really good three-point shooter. With Malin, Cole Braun, and Peyton Johnson, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for him to shoot. When it comes down to sectional time we always tell our guys to be ready, and Bailey was one of those guys who is solid defensively. When he had an open shot, he took it. I was not surprised one bit when he made it. Elwood’s man on him was basically the ultimate helper on defense, and so when he was left open the first time, I smiled when it went in. Then when he was wide open the second time I would have put $100 on him making it,” said Leicht. 

After showing success in the first half, the Titans went from a sprint to a trot offensively. Taylor went from being ahead by 10 points to falling behind by three points. 

As for their defense in the third quarter, the Titans were loose in the paint, which led to Elwood’s most successful quarter of the game. The Red Devils were able to sneak ahead with a total of 16 points in the third quarter. 

“I felt like we stopped attacking on offense. Defensively, we got caught on a couple of screens and let up on Drew Leisure who was able to capitalize on a couple of easy looks. At one point we kind of had to grab the rail a little bit, but we were able to turn it around in the fourth,” said Leicht. 

As for how the Titans prevailed in the fourth quarter, it was due to the effort of Gavin Cox, who was able to step up and provide eight points, alongside Vasquez’s four-point production. Defensively, Taylor held up and only allowed eight points to sink in, giving them the 47 to 41 victory. 

“Gavin and Malin were prime examples as to what we expect from our seniors. They stepped up, made plays happen, and were able to lead the team when we needed them,” said Leicht. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to lean on the guys we’ve leaned on, and we’re going to ask guys to give us big shots. Bailey and Liam Ireland are going to come in and play defense. That’s just what it is; it’s all hands on deck. When our attitudes are on deck and we’re team-orientated, we have a shot to win any game that we play for the rest of the year,” said Leicht.