LINCOLN CITY — Tuesday’s doubleheader against Nestucca was the last game of the decade for both the girls and boys basketball teams from Taft, but only the girls were able to pull out a year-ending victory as they outlasted the Bobcats 46-37, while the boys narrowly fell 51-49.
So far this season, Taft head coach Jake Tolan and his girls are 6-3, with two of their three losses coming by a single point.
The girls basketball team has wins against Dayton, Siletz Valley, Westside Christian, Rainier, Scio and now Nestucca.
Only three games — Dallas (Jan. 2), Siuslaw (Jan. 7) and Yamhill-Carlton (Jan. 10) — are left before the Tigers officially open their league season against Willamina.
Taft’s only defeat larger than a point came at the hands of head coach Tom Anderson and his Bulldogs.
For the boys team, a 2-5 start hasn’t dampened the Tiger’s spirits. Non-league matches are perfect tune-up games for the real action, 3A-3 Coastal Range League, which starts Jan. 14.
The Tigers have games against Siuslaw (Jan. 7) and Yamhill-Carlton (Jan. 10). Like the girls, they open against Willamina.
But against the Bobcats, Taft started off fast both offensively and defensively. However, as the game went on, Nestucca chipped away and eventually found some rhythm late in the game.
Eight Tigers got on the scoresheet against the Bobcats. Three players — Graden Kehr, Jordan Hall and Fco Ramos — had eight points on the night, but the team-focused attack couldn’t find consistent baskets late.
Taft not only utilized a pass-first, team-friendly concept, defensively they were all one unit.
Nestucca had only four points in the first quarter and nine in the second.
The Tigers outscored the visitors 19-13 to end the first half.
Kehr had two baskets, while Lucas and Kaden Hindman chipped in five points early.
Taft swung the ball to each end of the court, opening holes in the Bobcats’ interior defense. The Tiger’s game plan allowed them easy shots early on, but Nestucca tightened up on both ends of the floor.
Graydon Johnson scored 23 points for the Bobcats, but his play in the second half elevated his team around him.
Johnson opened the first half of the contest with only two points on a pair of free throws but began to heat up as the Tigers continued to make baskets.
Taft scored 15 points in the third quarter behind five different Tigers.
Ramos hit a long-range shot, got to the basket for a foul (converting one) and scored on a two-point shot.
Kaden added a three-point shot of his own, and Hall converted a close shot to power the Tigers to open the final half of the game.
But the Bobcats were hanging on.
With every surge by Taft, the Bobcats would follow, but up until this point, Nestucca could never find enough consistency to take the lead — until the fourth quarter.
The Tigers had 15 in the third and fourth quarters, but Nestucca had 17 in the third and 21 points in the fourth.
Jordan had 21 of the Bobcats’ 38 points. His barrage in the third quarter brought Nestucca back into the game, and they never let go.
Jordan hit a three halfway through the third and followed that up with a consecutive shot. His six points in a span of 30 seconds only grew after he drove into the paint, converting the shot but missing the layup.
His eight-point run flipped the momentum onto Nestucca’s side, and they capitalized on it in the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats pressured the Tigers into more than seven fouls, contributing to eight trips to the free-throw line.
Taft found themselves down a point late in the game, but began trading buckets with the Bobcats, not allowing them a chance to win the game until the final shot.
The Tigers down two, 51-49, had one final chance from half court that looked right, but sailed over the backboard.