Taylor Has Plenty of Help As Lowell Catholic Breezes
LOWELL -- The pulse of Lowell Catholic’s boys basketball program can be found in Isaiah Taylor’s wrists.
But the Crusaders are a team with a big heart -- and an even bigger cast of contributors.
Taylor put together a league MVP season this winter, as Lowell Catholic won the Catholic Central League Small School title. While Taylor is a marvelous talent, who can entertain fans in a multitude of ways on the hardcourt, Lowell Catholic’s sophomore guard is far from a one-man show.
The Crusaders have been winning as a team all season, and this trend continued in the postseason opener.
Taylor was at his best at crunch-time, scoring 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, as Lowell Catholic topped Georgetown, 66-52, in a Division 4 North Sectional quarterfinal Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore forward Keenan Rudy-Phol was an all-around force for Lowell Catholic, checking in with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists.
Lowell Catholic, which received a first round bye, improved to 16-5. The third-seeded Crusaders will play second-seeded KIPP Academy (16-5) in a Division 4 North semifinal at Woburn High Tuesday at 7 p.m. Georgetown finishes at 11-11.
“This was a good win,” said Taylor, a Methuen resident. “Georgetown is a really good team. They gave a great effort.
“We’re playing well. As long as we try hard, I think we’ll be fine. But any team can beat us if we don’t give our full effort.”
It took a max effort to subdue a Georgetown squad that trailed by two, 27-25, at halftime, and was only down by five, 43-38, early in the fourth quarter.
Taylor picked up his fourth foul with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter and headed to the bench. When things got too tight for comfort early in the fourth quarter, Taylor came back into the game with 6:15 left to play and immediately sparked a 9-3 run that increased Lowell Catholic’s lead to 11 points, 52-41.
“For some reason he tends to play better with foul trouble than he does without many fouls,” said Lowell Catholic coach Mike Isola. “He’s a little more reckless when he has that free reign. When he knows he can’t make a mistake it just pushes him to be the best he can be.”
Taylor’s game is all about creating separation from the defender, giving and going, quick-thinking and quick-movement. He can shoot from the perimeter, or slash his way to the rim.
Rudy-Phol was a force in the first half, netting 12 of his points before the break. Taylor got off to a slow start, but he quickly found his scoring rhythm after the break.
“Something clicked in my head (in the second half),” said Taylor. “Keenan played great. He told me, ‘I need you to step up with me.’ So I had to help him. This was a team effort. Our big guy, Caleb Scott, did real well for us.
“My teammates really stepped up when I was in my foul trouble. This was a really good team win.”
Jaceb McKenzie came up with numerous big plays for the Crusaders, finishing with a double-double that included 14 points and 10 rebounds. Caleb Scott scored four points, and grabbed 14 rebounds, while doing a great job defensively in the paint. Alex Antoine tallied five points and had three steals.
“This was a huge win for us against a very talented team,” said Isola. “From a program standpoint this team has achieved what no other club has.
“It’s the first time we’ve won the league. It’s the first time we’ve had a league MVP. We were undefeated in the league (going 10-0). And that’s two battles with Pope John, the defending (Division 4) state champ.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi