Taft takes care of Birmingham at home
The Taft Toreadors made a statement at home Friday that they are still in the running for a league championship with a 60-53 victory over league rival Birmingham. Senior forward Evelyn Birau, junior center Brigita Bulotaite and sophomore guard Aliyah Muhammad combined to score 43 of the Toreadors’ 60 points to help the team improve to 3-1 in the West Valley and 14-7 overall on the season.
Taft was aggressive from the outset of the contest, making great use of their size advantage on the inside. Birau and Bulotaite were tough for the Patriots to handle on the interior. The frontcourt tandem combined for 11 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in the first quarter alone. Birmingham’s backcourt trio of junior guards Samantha Velazquez, Natalie Lopez and junior wing Devyn Berry did their best to keep pace with Taft’s hot start, combining for all 11 of the Patriots’ first-quarter points.
The star of the contest was Muhammad, who had a true coming out party in the contest. When the Birmingham defense adjusted to slow down the Taft interior players, Muhammad took over. She finished the contest leading all scorers with 23 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. She came up with timely baskets whenever the Toreadors were in danger of letting the Patriots back into the contest, and she was instrumental in Taft’s ability to break Birmingham’s vaunted full-court press with her ability to control her dribble and find outlet passes for easy transition baskets.
The Toreadors dominated the game on the boards, outrebounding Birmingham 45-27 in the contest. When the 6’2” Bulotaite had to go to the bench with foul trouble, the work of Birau, Muhammad and the rest of Taft’s role players helped keep the Patriots at bay, never allowing their opponent to get the deficit any closer than 7 points in the second half on their way to a 7-point victory.
Taft will look to build on the big win and improve to 4-1 in the West Valley when they take the floor on Monday afternoon against Chatsworth. Birmingham will have a few days off to regroup before they take on West Valley leaders Granada Hills on the road Wednesday afternoon.