With West Springfield trailing at the midway point of the third quarter Monday night, Jasmine Taylor drove to the hoop, spun away from the taller defender and knocked down a turnaround jumper to put the Spartans back in front.
And on the first possession of overtime, the heady sophomore pulled up from the top of key and knocked down a shot to put No. 15 West Springfield ahead for good.
Taylor provided several big shots and played “the best game of her career,” according to Spartans Coach Bill Gibson. The 5-foot-11 guard posted a career-high 22 points in a 64-57 overtime win over Madison in the Westfield Bulldog Bash final.
“To be honest, when I took that shot it was for my team. I knew I had to bring them back in it,” Taylor said of her go-ahead jumper. “My whole game was for my team. I knew that if I didn’t step up and score we were going to lose.”
The Spartans jumped out to a 17-7 lead after the first quarter, but Madison scored 23 points in a strong second period to take a 30-27 lead into the half. Warhawks junior Kelly Koshuta scored a game-high 27 points.
West Springfield quickly found itself in a battle against a Warhawks squad it beat by 13 points Dec. 7.
“We took a second to relax,” Taylor said of the Spartans squandering a 10-point lead. “We needed a reality check. This wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, and they had revenge on their side.”
Shelby Haynes (14 points) was relentless on the defensive side of the ball, providing pressure that kept Madison (4-6) off-balance.
“She’s so consistent. She’s probably the most consistent player we have game in and game out when it comes to points, rebounds and assists,” Gibson said of the sophomore. “I told her last game you don’t have to have your name in the box score to have a good game.”
Gibson was relegated to the bench for the final two minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half after picking up a technical foul — his first since the earlier meeting between the two teams.
Known for his boisterous voice and constantly giving instruction, he had to watch his team fight and claw in a game that featured six lead changes and six ties.
After Taylor’s three-pointer to open overtime, West Springfield (10-0) forced three turnovers in the four-minute session and shot 7 for 8 from the free throw line.
Taylor’s stellar play in the championship game earned her the Erin Peterson MVP Award, named in the honor of the Westfield grad and Virginia Tech student who was slain in the tragic shooting April 16, 2007.
“It feels great to win this award and get a career high. It’s an honor,” Taylor said. “I love this team.”