Taylor steers Stepinac past Lincoln Hall
By Kevin Devaney Jr.
The Journal News
(Original Publication: December 12, 2006)
WHITE PLAINS - Melquan Bolding can break last season at Stepinac down into two parts. The first was marred by inconsistent play and locker-room disharmony. The second saw on-court stability and far more cohesion.
What changed? The answer can be traced mainly to one player.
The Crusaders were simply a different team after point guard Tony Taylor was promoted from the junior varsity in January. The team, especially Bolding, hasn't been the same since.
Stepinac posted its second impressive win of the season yesterday, rolling past Lincoln Hall 83-54 in its home opener. Bolding, a 6-foot-4 guard, registered 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Taylor, a 5-10 junior, contributed 25 points, five assists and five steals.
"Tony's just taken this team up another notch," said Bolding, who's orally committed to Louisville. "He's definitely made me a lot better."
While Bolding was his usual acrobatic self - including a two-handed alley-oop dunk - Taylor ran the offense the way he has since last season.
The Greenburgh native was a steady presence against a pesky Lincoln Hall defense, distributing the ball well and keeping everyone involved.
"He's really helped bring us together as a team," Crusaders coach Tim Philp said. "He can control the floor, and he just makes everyone better. Tony just makes the game easy for everyone else."
It's a stark contrast to the way things were a year ago.
Heading into last January, all of the promise Stepinac had after Bolding transferred from Beacon was being spoiled. The Crusaders were a respectable 5-4 in December, but they were coming off demoralizing losses to White Plains and Mount St. Michael and a division was growing in the locker room.
When Taylor was brought up before Stepinac's Jan. 4 game against Cardinal Hayes, he not only provided another viable scoring option, but also helped eliminate the dissension.
Once he adjusted to the varsity level, culminating in a breakout 17-point performance in a win over Iona Prep, Stepinac took off. It went 9-4 the rest of the way, losing to McClancy in the CHSAA Division A playoffs.
Taylor averaged 13.8 points over that span. He has directed the Crusaders to a pair of easy wins already this season.
"I didn't really think I was going to have this big an impact. I was just coming up to try and get wins," Taylor said. "There were a lot of egos on the team last year. I'm just trying to get us to play as a team and let everyone know it's not all about who scores the points. I've got to lead by example."
Taylor certainly did that yesterday.
Coming off a 20-point, 11-assist performance in last week's 83-68 win at McClancy, Taylor struggled to find his shot early against Lincoln Hall. Instead of pressing, he spread the ball, letting Bolding and Rich Schmidt carry the scoring load.
Bolding, who had 32 points in the opener, scored 11 first-half points, and Schmidt, a 5-8 senior, scored all 14 of his points before the break as the Crusaders built a 10-point lead.
Stepinac broke the game open in the third quarter behind 12 points from Bolding and four assists by Schmidt, before Taylor knocked down 4 of 5 from behind the arc in the fourth to seal it.
Lincoln Hall (1-5) got 16 points and 12 rebounds from Sir Aaron Taylor but simply couldn't keep Bolding and Taylor down.
"We knew what we were getting into today," United coach Henry Taylor said. "In the long run, this is going to be good for us. We're still growing and learning to play as a team. We'll be fine."
Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Varsity Insider blog at kickoff.lohudblogs.com