By Steve Millar
With his team leading Shepard by just three points at halftime on Feb. 17, Richards senior forward Anthony Taylor knew the solution for his team to take over the game was a simple one.
“We had to play Richards basketball,” Taylor said. “The faster we play, the better we are. We’re not a really big team, but we’re fast. When we play fast, we can run the other team out of the gym.”
The Bulldogs did just that in the second half, picking up the pace and pulling away for a 74-57 win in a South Suburban Red game in Palos Heights.
Taylor, who has signed with Moraine Valley to continue his athletic career in college, led the way with a huge performance as he finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Santiago Rios added 18 points and five rebounds for Richards (2-0, 2-0), while senior guard Stevon Lige and junior guard Ladarius Kelly had 13 points each.
The Astros were led by senior forward Cole Hermanson, who continued his strong start to the season with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Junior forward Kevin Plascencia scored 16 points and sophomore guard Payton Crims had nine points and five rebounds for Shepard (1-2, 1-2)
Taylor did most of his damage in the middle quarters. He scored eight points in the second quarter, then poured in 13 to lead a 26-point third-quarter surge for the Bulldogs.
Richards extended its lead from 29-26 at halftime to 55-40 at the end of the third.
“It’s pretty nice to have a guy like Anthony,” Richards coach Chris Passafiume said. “He’s a three-year varsity player who’s played on some really good teams. I feel like, at times, he’s kind of deferred to other guys in the past, because we had some big scorers.
“Now, he kind of knows it’s his time to take over games. We don’t even need to tell him to do that. He knows when he needs to step up and he does it.”
Taylor is embracing the role of go-to guy.
“It’s definitely my job now, especially with the young core we have,” he said. “We have a lot of first-year varsity players and only three other returning players from last year.
“I just try to teach confidence. ‘Santi’ (Rios) is a really good player. I wish he would shoot the ball a little more. I’m just teaching confidence, not really yelling at anybody.”
Taylor was nearly unstoppable inside, but also stepped outside to hit a pair of 3-pointers during the third-quarter run.
“I feel like I’m a tough guard,” he said. “Preparing for the next level, I have to do both inside and out, so I’m getting ready for that.”
Rios, meanwhile, impressed in just his second varsity game. He scored 10 second-half points, using his quickness to get to the basket while also burying a pair of 3-pointers.
“Sometimes I try to shoot it a little more because I feel like I’m wide open, but I also like to get my teammates open because they get me open,” Rios said. “I feel it’s been good so far.
“I just need to be consistent with practice, consistent with teamwork and all that. Anthony helps with a lot of that in practice and so do the rest of the seniors, so it’s pretty easy to catch on.”