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Joshua Doss controlled the first half and John Joyce excelled in the second half lifting host Taft to a 56-54 victory over Von Steuben in Public Red-North action on Thurday afternoon.
“We trust those two with a lot of responsibility and they’re good,” Taft coach Brett Nishibayashi said. “But I want them to be better especially down the stretch.”
It was down the stretch when the Eagles (9-6, 7-0) almost faltered by giving away a double-digit lead in the last five minutes of the game.
Von Steuben’s two top scorers, Demetrius Faulkner and Joseph Rencher, came alive after sitting most of the first half in foul trouble. They were joined by Demetrius Mims, who came off the bench after sitting out the entire first half.
Faulkner scored nine unanswered points. Mims connected on pair of three pointers and Rencher made four free throws to lead the Panthers (4-7, 2-4) back from a 12 point hole to a 52-51 lead with 1:51 to play on one of Mim’s treys.
“I was just thinking that we needed to bear down and play defense,’’ Joyce said. “We were taking it too easy in the second half and it almost got us.”
Joyce responded to that brief Panther lead by making a pair of free throws that put his team ahead for good at 53-52. Joyce scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half when the Panthers were focused on taking Doss out of the offense for Taft. He also connected on 10 of his 12 free throw shots for the game.
“They were doubling me in the second half and I just depended on John and he came through,’’ Doss said. ``We shoot three-hundred free throws a day and that’s after we run.’’
That practice paid off as Doss made 12 of his 15 free throws and the Eagles shot 80% from the stripe for the game. Doss scored 13 of his 21 points in the first half and in the process sent Faulkner and Rencher to the bench with foul trouble.
Mims had a chance for the Von Steuben win with two seconds left but his three hit the rim and bounced away. Mims finished with 10 and Faulkner led the Panthers with 14.