If you ask Madison Taylor she’d say as a freshman she wasn’t a strong free-throw shooter. But Southampton’s 44-35 win over Pierson Monday told a much different story.
The sophomore spitfire grabbed a rebound and carried it all the way for a layup, and followed it up with back-to-back free throws with 2:51 left in the game to effectively win things for the Mariners (13-6 overall, 10-4 in League VII). In fact, she went 3-for-4 thereafter, and finished the game 8-for-10 to secure half of her game-high 16 points from the charity stripe in Southampton’s seventh straight win January 27.
“The more you practice the better you get with things,” Taylor said, laughing off her less-than-perfect freshman shooting percentage from the foul line. “Games like this — when I’m on from the beginning — I feel confident, but you can’t get too confident.”
Head coach Juni Wingfield said watching the daughter of a former Harlem Globetrotter since she was a tyke helped him see what he always knew she was capable of.
“Madison is growing and growing and growing. She was born with a lot of quick-twitch fiber,” the coach said. “It’s in her DNA. When teams press us, they’re going to get in trouble, because when you go man-to-man Maddie is going to beat you. She handles pressure really well.”
Taylor led a balanced Mariners attack that saw help early from Cristine Delgado (7 points) and Allysha Thomas (4 points) and late from Ishanti Gumbs (10 points) and Caraline Oakley (7 points, 11 rebounds), but all four contributed during Southampton’s 14-point tare from the end of the first to the opening shot of the second. Things got tricky though when Chastin Giles (13 points) followed up a Grace Perello field goal with a three-pointer to close the gap 20-14 at halftime, and Kathryn Powell (6 points) sandwiched two Meredith Spolarich (8 points) layups to tie the game at 22-all midway through the third.
“We’ve won a few close ones so we know we have to keep our heads in the game,” Wingfield said. “You have to pay attention to Chastin because she’s a seasoned player, she never quits; and she got going. But I’m seeing their ability and their maturity to hang in there. They weren’t watching the scoreboard, they were just trying to execute.”
Pierson (10-7, 9-4) tied the game once more on a Brooke Esposito (4 points) free throw with 1:23 left in the third, and Spolarich made it 26-25 to close out the quarter, but Southampton switched up its defense between a zone, man-to-man, and triangle and 2 to keep their opponent on their toes, and that was as close as Pierson would come
Gumbs, who scored six points in the fourth quarter to Taylor’s nine, also provided points off fouls to extend the advantage late. While she too was confident in her teammate’s ability from the free-throw line, her head coach also knows what his senior shooter is capable of.
“Ishanti is strong on the post,” Wingfield said. “Cristine Delgado plays a lot of man and got into some foul trouble early, but isn’t afraid to take the ball from you. They weren’t there the first time we faced Pierson, and those girls were the difference out there today.”
Every girl has a role, and plays it well. Delgado said it also helps that each Mariner on the court can put up points. That’s proved difficult for other teams to counter even with home-court advantage. Southampton secured six straight road wins before this victory at home.
“We support each other,” Delgado said. “Our offense feeds off those steals. Our defenders can grab the rebounds and intercept passes. We’ve come far, and we’re constantly pushing each other.”
The win, which provides Southampton with a higher playoff seed, is even sweeter after the Mariners fell one short of making the playoffs last season. As Wingfield put it, his girls aren’t giving in, and they aren’t giving up.
“Whether we’re winning or losing we always have a positive attitude,” Taylor said. “We’ve got eagerness and integrity and we’re maintaining that state of mind. I think we’re looking strong from here on out.”