Taylor's 38 points key Rayen past Ursuline
She also had nine rebounds and nine steals as the Tigers won their 10th.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- For years, the Ursuline High girls basketball team has been used to watching the Steel Valley Conference's best player dominate games.
But with former Irish standouts Courtney Davidson (Michigan State) and Tyra Grant (Penn State) graduated, the honor of the SVC's top player has been passed to Rayen junior Brittney Taylor, who surpassed the 1,000-point career mark earlier this week.
In Thursday's showdown between last year's SVC champs and one of this year's top contenders, Taylor took charge in the second quarter, scoring 15 points and making four rebounds as the Tigers outscored the Irish 24-7 en route to a 64-32 victory in the Rayen gymnasium.
In the game, Taylor made 16 baskets and six free throws for 38 points. She also contributed nine rebounds and nine steals.
"She just completely dominated the game," Ursuline coach Sean Durkin said. "She's tremendous, she can do a lot of things on the floor.
"Her physical strength is such an attribute. We tried three-or-four different kids on her -- we just don't have anyone to matchup physically with her," Durkin said.
Rayen coach Tanisha Franklin said Taylor carries the weight of high expectations.
"She's our 1,000-point scorer for a reason," Franklin said. "By any means, she finds a way to score. If they take away one option, she finds another. It's expected of her to lead our team."
Neither team had much success finding the basket in the opening quarter as the Tigers led, 6-4.
Taylor takes over
Then Taylor took over, sparking the Tigers' tenacious defense that forced seven Irish turnovers before they could take a second-quarter shot. The Tigers seized control with a 13-0 run.
"We thought we could do a decent job on them in the half-court defense," Durkin said. "We were concerned with how we handled the ball in the offensive end because that really jump-starts their offense.
"In the second quarter, we just kept turning the ball over," Durkin said. "Not only are we not getting any shot attempts, but we were giving them easy looks. That combination with a team of this ability is lethal."
Taylor said the Tigers' slow start was a result of moving too fast.
"Our [tempo] was too high --when we slowed down and played our game, everything was fine," Taylor said.
Franklin said the tide turned in the Tigers' favor when they did a better job moving the ball.
"In the first quarter, we were getting shots but they just weren't falling. We kept the same strategy," Franklin said. "I told the girls to just keep shooting and they are going to start to fall."
Rayen, Mooney still tied
The victory keeps Rayen (10-2) tied with Mooney (11-3) atop the SVC standings. Both are 4-0 and they will play on Feb. 8.
Also for the Tigers, Courtney Revere scored eight points while Kenysha Beach had seven points, three assists and three steals. Jaleesa Beverly had 12 rebounds while Cheryl Green pulled down 11.
Anna Santisi led Ursuline (5-10, 1-2) with 11 points and six rebounds while Kaneesha Tensley had seven points and six rebounds.
For Taylor, winning a championship in Rayen's final year is motivation.
"Getting the title with Rayen closing down, that's about all we could ask for," Taylor said. "This is the last opportunity to show what we've got in this building here."
Franklin said the closing of Rayen in June provides motivation.
"Being our last year, emotions are running high," Franklin said. "So to win it would mean a lot to everyone."
Franklin said she's not surprised by the Tigers' 10-2 start.
"I wanted to set our expectations high. We've always had a team that can compete so [high expectations] help keep them going hard every day.
"With just one player graduating from last year's 14-6 team, I knew we would pick right back up. Hard work pays off and it's showing right now."