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The Taft Senators emerged victorious on Friday night over the Aiken Falcons, 78-52. It took a big 30-7 run from the Senators in the third quarter to pull away, but otherwise the game was close.

Prior to the game, Taft Coach DeMarco Bradley Sr. said, “We need to play Taft basketball tonight to get the win. We need to hustle and stick together.”

On the other side, Aiken Coach Ty Cass said, “we need to play with a lot of energy for 32 minutes. We’ve had some trouble putting together full games, and we need one tonight to come away with a win.” Cass also said he wanted to slow Taft down while still getting out in transition, and that this would be key for the Falcons.

In the first quarter, both sides stuck to their game plan, as Aiken forced Taft to play in the half court and Taft maintained a high level of hustle, particularly on defense.

Neither team was able to get much offense going as a result, and the quarter ended with Taft leading by three, 12-9.

The second quarter was more of the same story for the first six minutes, until the Senators seized some control in the final two minutes to take a 29-22 lead into the half.

Junior, Chris’seon Stringer led all scorers with 18 points and was a force down low.

The third quarter started out with Aiken making a run, and even cutting the lead down to three, 30-27. However, Taft responded with a 30-7 run over the final six minutes of the quarter to push the lead to 60-34.

The fourth quarter was competitive, with both teams scoring 18 points. But the Taft run proved to be too much for Aiken, and the Falcons were downed by the Senators 78-52.

Stringer led Taft in scoring with 20 points, earning him player of the game honors. Senior Michael Peppers was second with 17 points. Senior Derrick Heard also chipped in 13 points.

For Aiken, freshman Jakada Stone led the team with 18 points, while junior D’Arris Dean and senior Blake Smith each scored 12.

After the game Coach Bradley expressed his joy with the victory. “This is only the second time we’ve had our whole team this year. When we’re healthy we are going to be a tough out for anyone, and tonight we showed that.”

“We were able to shut down the offense tonight, it was like a hot knife cutting cold butter,” Bradley said. “We wanted the offense to ‘melt’ with our defense, and I think we accomplished that.”

“Our defense played together and we played tough, and it made it difficult for them,” Stringer said.

Aiken returns to action Monday, January 22nd at 7:30 p.m., on the road at Mount Healthy. Taft returns on Friday, January 26th against Woodward at 7:30 p.m.

It's January 18 and we're exactly half way through CMAC inter-conference play. So far, we've seen an abundance of talent from top to bottom as some teams have found their stride, while other schools have hung tough and are learning to play as a team in a very tough CMAC.

Currently, we see three teams in the Enquirer's top 10 in Cincinnati for Division II - all sitting at 4-1 in conference play. The Hughes Big Red come in at #2, led by senior point guard Giovanni Santiago. Santiago runs as a smooth point guard, with a focus on getting his teammates involved. He stuffs the stat sheet in every category as he's averaged 17.5/6.5/7.8 to this point. Senior and 1st Team All-CMAC selection from a year ago, AJ Smith contributes to their success as well. When he scores 10+ points this season, the Big Red win by an average of 17 points per game. Finally, everybody needs to watch out for transfer & SR guard, Dominic Brewton to make a huge impact down the stretch. 

The Taft Senators started the season losing three straight on the road to top teams in the state, but since have rebounded to win eight of their last nine games. Coach Demarco Bradley Sr has stressed the importance of being battle tested before a run at state, and it looks like Taft is starting to find themselves as senior, DeShawn Lawrence leads the Senators with 14 PPG and 6 AST/gm. In addition, JR, Demarco Bradley Jr is a huge X-factor. He averages 16 PPG & 6 AST/gm while leading the CMAC with 3.1 STL/gm. Chris'seon "Grown Man" Stringer has also played a significant role in the Senators recent success after returning from a knee injury that kept him from playing for nearly a year. When these three are in rhythm, it's tough for anybody to stop Taft.

Woodward wraps up the top of the CMAC, as they come in #5 in the city. The Bulldogs have arguably the best athlete in Cincinnati, as SR Terry Durham controls the interior on both ends. He currently averages 25 PPG & 13 REB/gm. On defense, he leads the CMAC in blocks with 2/gm and in addition, picks 3 steals/gm. The key for the Bulldogs however, is SR guard, Demontez Cooper. Coach Redden has emphatically expressed that when he goes, his team thrives. He leads the CMAC in AST/gm with 7.6 and when he shoots above 50% from the floor, Woodward is undefeated. They're the only team in Cincinnati that has beat Hughes and they have potential to make noise when tournament time comes around. 

Not to be lost in the mix, Aiken, Western Hills & Shroder have all been playing tough basketball. When you play the best teams in the city on a nightly basis, you find out a lot about yourself. All three of these teams are noticeably better now, in comparison to the beginning of the year and are led by a variety of under & upperclassmen that play great team basketball. Guys like Blake Smith (SR - Aiken), Brandon Doss (SR- Shroder) & Leslie Sanders (SR - Western Hills) have all played significant minutes and are leaders on and off the court. All three of these teams have been in competitive games into the fourth quarter with Hughes, Woodward and Taft each, which speaks to the overall strength and balance of the CMAC. It's not too late to make a run at the conference title and to prepare their teams for a state tournament run. If the second half of the season is as entertaining and competitive as the first, we're in for a terrific finish! 

Cincinnati Enquirer Coaches' Poll

BOYS

DIVISION 2

2) Hughes

3) Taft

5) Woodward

Click here to see the city coaches' polls!

Click here to read about the game!

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