Jan. 15—Taylor's boys basketball team beat Western 53-36 on Saturday night at Center Court to snap an 18-game losing streak in the cross-county series.
"We're just trying to fight our way up the pecking order," Taylor coach Bob Wonnell said. "I feel like across the county, it seems like maybe Taylor might be looked down at sometimes and that we're not super good. We're working on that. We're trying to prove to people that we're a good program."
Taylor had last beaten Western on Jan. 15, 2010, in a Howard County Tournament semifinal game. Later that season, the Panthers beat the Titans in a Mid-Indiana Conference game. From there, with the county tournament and MIC both fading into the history books, the Panthers had rattled off the long winning streak in their annual matchup.
"A couple practices ago, [Wonnell] was real mad, all up on us, talking about how we needed to break that," Taylor sophomore forward Javionne Harris said. "We came out here, played good defense and our offense heated up in the second quarter."
Taylor improved to 11-3. The Titans were 12-2 through 14 games last season when they went 19-6. They had to replace their top three scorers, but Harris and his teammates have kept the beat going.
"We are brothers. We got all love for each other and we play hard," he said.
The matchup featured young teams. Taylor started one junior, three sophomores and a freshman. Western countered with one senior, two juniors and two sophomores.
Western guard Carter Biggs hit a pair of 3-pointers to stake the Panthers to an early 6-2 lead, but Taylor guard Christian Hall hit two 3-pointers of his own to help fuel a 12-2 run that put Titans up 14-8 at the end of the quarter — and they kept the lead the rest of the way.
Western drew within 16-14 midway through the second quarter, but Harris followed with a 3-point play off a putback that ignited a quick 7-0 run. After making his free throw, Harris created a turnover in the defensive halfcourt that Hall turned into a layup. After a Western miss, Keyshawn Galloway raced in for a fastbreak layup that made it 23-14.
The Titans took a 25-17 lead into halftime. They maintained at least a six-point lead throughout the third quarter and Connor Binnion's hoop-and-harm 3-point play made it 38-29 at the close of the quarter.
Taylor was up 41-34 midway through the final quarter. Following a timeout, Harris scored on a hoop-and-harm 3-point play off an inbound play to ignite a 12-2 closing run.
Harris finished with game highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds. He was 4 of 5 from the field and 6 of 7 from the foul line.
"I'm a leader. I like to lead my team, take them to where they need to be," he said. "Sometimes I can be down on myself, but my team will pick me up and then I'll get going and I'll pick my team up with me even harder."
The Titans backed Harris with balance. Hall had 12 points, including 10 in the first half. Binnion had 11 points, Galloway had nine and Drey McClatchey had seven. The Titans shot 20 of 42 (47.6%) from the field.
Wonnell liked how the Titans maintained the lead over the final three quarters.
"In our Northwestern game and Frankfort game, we had the opportunity to do that too and kind of pooped it away. It's good to see us build off of that," he said. "We're getting closer and closer to 32 minutes."
Logan Nelson led Western (4-10) with 10 points. Carter Biggs had nine points and Hudson Biggs had eight rebounds.
The Panthers finished 13 of 42 (31%) from the field overall and 5 of 24 (20.8%) from 3-land.
"I thought defensively, I liked our game plan and I thought we came out and executed well. You hold a team like them to 38 points in three quarters, that was pretty good," Western coach Cam Bennington said. "Offensively, we just struggled. ... Credit to them for making us uncomfortable. We didn't shoot it well from outside and right now, when we don't shoot it well from 3, we're kind of searching for our next identity. [Saturday] was the same story."
The Panthers have lost three straight and seven of their last eight.
"We can't look in the rear-view mirror, we can only look out the windshield and see what's in front of us and then find ways to attack it and keep approaching each game relentlessly and fearlessly," Bennington said.
Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at email@example.com or 765-454-8567.