Taylor takes over late in Stepinac's victory
By KEVIN DEVANEY JR.
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 19, 2007)
NEW YORK - At some point, Stepinac had to learn to play without Tony Taylor. There would be a game where either his shots weren't falling or he'd get in foul trouble. Or, as was the case yesterday, both.
Any questions of whether the Crusaders could survive without their star point guard for an extended period of time were partially answered in their 52-37 win at Fordham Prep in a CHSAA basketball matchup.
Taylor, who's signed with George Washington University, missed most of the second and third quarters with foul trouble. But Stepinac's supporting cast, especially Aaron Pegues and Eddie Byrne, held off a scrappy Rams squad until Taylor sealed the win in the fourth.
Coming into the game averaging an area-best 31.3 points per game, Taylor scored 18 of his 21 points yesterday in the final 11 minutes to turn a three-point Crusaders lead into a rout.
"If there was one good thing about this game it's that, with Tony sitting on the bench, other guys stepped up," Stepinac coach Tim Philp said. "Eddie Byrne came off the bench and hit two big 3-pointers and played well defensively. And the best part is that we didn't really turn the ball over too much without Tony on the floor."
Taylor struggled early, hitting just 1 of 8 shots in the first half. He picked up his third foul on the offensive end for pushing off a defender and went to the bench midway through the second quarter.
Fordham Prep (2-7) tied the score at 19-19 soon after, then Pegues made a driving layup and a long 3-pointer in the closing minute of the first half. The 6-foot-3 Pegues, a senior who sat out last season after transferring from Cardinal Hayes, had 15 points with four rebounds and four blocks.
"Everybody on this team is capable of scoring," Taylor said. "Aaron Pegues could be our leading scorer. But we just run the offense through me. I've got to make things happen. This was just a bad game for me."
Stepinac struggled offensively for most of the third quarter but its defense maintained the lead. Taylor returned with just under three minutes left in the period and took the game over.
With his perimeter shots not falling, Taylor took almost everything to the basket. He scored 12 of Stepinac's 17 points in the fourth against a worn-down Fordham team.
"They hit a couple of shots, we made some turnovers and things just fell apart for us," Rams coach Kevin Pigott said. "I was happy with our defense overall. ... Tony is one of the best players in our league and I was happy with that. But just some little mistakes hurt us."
Taylor said afterward that he wanted to forgot the game as quickly as possible. He had scored 30, 36 and 28 points in the first three games and was clearly frustrated by his play early on.
"There's going to be pressure on me every day," Taylor said. "I've got to learn to deal with it."
Stepinac hosts St. Agnes today and has another crucial league road game on Saturday at Mount St. Michael. Next week, the Crusaders are part of the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester County Center.
Learning from yesterday's game, Philp said, was most important.
"Whenever we play Fordham, it's a tough, scrappy game," Philp said. "You've got to protect the ball, make foul shots and play smart. In our league anybody can beat anybody. The biggest thing tonight is that we went on the road and won a league game. That's all that matters."
Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com. Read his Varsity Insider blog at varsityinsider.lohudblogs.com.