The senior guard made three 3s and scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the Red Wolves hang on to a 63-62 win over Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday.
Taylor was held to just four points in the first half, but scored 16 after the intermission to lead the way.
"I think with anybody that we play, the number one key is to try to control Zach," Cedarcrest head coach Mark Prince said. "I think that's probably everyone's game plan going in. He's a guy that just wants the ball down the stretch. He's used to taking big shots. He's done that for the past four years and tonight was no different. He demands the ball and we want to give it to him because we know good things will happen when he touches the ball."
The Wildcats' defense seemed to frustrate Taylor in the first half. All four of his points came from the free-throw line and he didn't attempt many field goals. Things changed in the second half as Taylor was able to get to the basket and his shot started to fall.
"I think our length in our zone gave him some difficulty at time," Archbishop Murphy head coach Jamar Williams said. "I think he took about a quarter to figure out where his spots were going to be. He's a heckuva a player so when that fourth quarter hits players like that are going to try to step up."
Even without points from Taylor, Cedarcrest jumped out to a first half advantage thanks to Jordan Corpus and Xavier Turner.
Momentum shifted the Wildcats way in the third quarter. Archbishop Murphy opened the half on a 6-0 run and erased the seven-point halftime deficit midway through the third quarter when Zander Clouse grabbed a rebound and scored on a putback drawing a foul. Clouse's old-fashioned three-point play gave the Wildcats a 38-36 lead, their first of the game.
"I thought the first half we really pushed the ball well in transition and that was part of our plan," Prince said. "I thought we got away from that in the second half. And to be honest, I think Murphy came out in the third quarter a little bit more aggressive and they wanted it a little bit more I thought. I'm proud of the way our guys responded."
The score remained close for the remainder of the quarter and the Red Wolves took a 47-45 lead into the final period.
The Wildcats' intensity definitely picked up in the fourth quarter as the coaching staff and bench jumped out of their seats after almost every made basket. Phil Hoban tied the score at 57 with a couple of free throws late in the quarter, but Taylor came back with his biggest shot of the night, coming off of a screen and knocking down a straight away 3 to give Cedarcrest a 60-57 lead. Corpus scored on a layup just seconds late and with just over a minute to play it looked like the Wildcats might finally succumb.
But Archbishop Murphy still had some more fight left.
Conner Longoria scored another old-fashioned three-point play for the Wildcats to cut the lead to 62-60 After Turner made one of two free throws, the Wildcats once again had a chance to cut the lead to one or tie trailing 63-60. With 17.5 seconds left in the game, Clouse grabbed a rebound and scored on another putback, again drawing a foul. This time though Clouse missed his free throw and the Wildcats were forced to foul.
Chad Klingenberg missed the front end of the one-and-one and the Wildcats grabbed the rebound and advanced the ball over half court before calling a timeout with nine seconds to play in the game.
Out of the timeout, the Wildcats' Brad Kwesele got an open look at a jump shot from the baseline, but it rimmed out. The Red Wolves secured the rebound as time expired.
Despite a disappointing loss, Williams was encouraged after the game. "It definitely helps us get better," he said. "We need to learn how to compete in tight games like this and most importantly get ourselves over the hump."
After the game, both coaches expressed admiration for the opposing team and agreed it was special to be a part of such a competitive game.
"It's an honor to be a part of a game like that," Williams said. "To see two teams play with pride and a lot of emotions and executing pretty good basketball, it's just an honor to be on the sideline."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Archbishop Murphy H.S.
Cedarcrest 20 14 13 16 -- 63
Archbishop Murphy 10 17 18 17 -- 62
Cedarcrest--Bennett Minnie 5, Zach Taylor 20, Jordan Corpus 13, Austin Patsy 0, Xavier Turner 9, Chad Klingenberg 6, John Soule 10. Archbishop Murphy--Zander Clouse 12, Phil Hoban 16, Brantle Harris 3, Sajan Saini 8, Chase White 4, Conner Longoria 9, Josh Parafina 5, Brad Kwesele 5, Adam Rasmussen 0. 3-point goals--Minnie 1, Corpus 1, Taylor 3, Hoban 2, White 1, Parafina 1. Records--Cedarcrest 10-1 league, 10-7 overall. Archbishop Murphy 7-4, 8-6.
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