SEMINOLE — Tamara Taylor has talked all season about how important it is for her to get other players involved if Boca Ciega is to continue its streak of three straight trips to the state playoffs.
The lone senior has backed it up, averaging close to 10 assists a game heading into Saturday's final of the Indian Rocks Christian Winter Slam Tournament against the host Golden Eagles.
The 5-foot-10 guard continued that unselfish play again with 12 assists against IRC, but her ability to score stood out more as the USF-bound Taylor had a career-high 45 points to lead the Pirates to a 79-72 win.
"Wow, that's incredible," said the usually reserved Taylor, who also had nine rebounds. "I'm a senior and whenever the team needs me to score, I'll take it upon myself to do so. But we talked before the game about how we need others to step up their game."
The Golden Eagles tried to deny Taylor the ball with a box-and-one defense. Destiny Brown, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard who hadn't had more than 10 points this season, hit 4-of-11 on 3-pointers in scoring 18.
"That's the most admirable quality about Tamara is how much she trusts her teammates and wants to get them involved," Boca Ciega coach Will White said. "She believes in her teammates more than I think the other players believe in themselves."
Taylor scored only four in the first quarter as the Golden Eagles built a 15-8 lead behind Tori Trador's three 3-pointers. Taylor began to heat up in the second quarter with 19 points on 6-of-7 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws as the Pirates narrowed the gap to 38-34 at halftime, including Taylor's coast-to-coast layup at the buzzer.
"I started to feel us start to lose that confidence a bit when (Taylor) did that at the end there," Golden Eagles coach Phil Farver said. "We tend to panic under pressure. We quit running sets, we start to play selfish ball. The way she trusted her teammates is almost a flip-flop of what we did."
Taylor had six points and assisted on the other basket during an 8-1 run to help the Pirates (8-1) seize the lead for good at 49-43 in the middle of the third quarter.
Despite the loss, the Golden Eagles (6-2) demonstrated that they are perhaps the best private school in the county.
"They're a very good team and it was a good test for us early on in the season," White said.