3A boys Central Regional -- Greensboro 54, Leeds 44: Taylor sets tone for Raiders

3A boys Central Regional -- Greensboro 54, Leeds 44: Taylor sets tone for Raiders

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3A boys Central Regional -- Greensboro 54, Leeds 44: Taylor sets tone for Raiders

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Greensboro survived a sluggish start with a second-quarter rally to help knock off Leeds 54-44 in the Class 3A Central Regional at Alabama State’s Acadome on Saturday.

The most valuable player, to no one’s surprise, was Greensboro center Jimmy Taylor. The 6-foot-9 Alabama signee had 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, but regardless of his statistics, his mere presence on the court changed the game plan for the smaller Leeds team. And any other team that faces the two-time defending state champions.

“He’s such an intimidating presence out there,” Greensboro coach Marty Everett said. “He may not block a shot, but he alters shots. He makes teams think, am I going to drive or am I going to kick it out? There’s so much that his presence alone causes a team. A team that runs a lot of motion tries to get the ball inside a lot. It just makes you alter your offensive plan.

“And he’s also a great presence for us on the offensive end.”

It hasn’t always been that way. Taylor has shined in spring tournaments for the AAU teams, but was a relatively quiet presence on the high school court, even as his team won state championships in Class 4A in 2011 and 2012.

“He wasn’t an aggressive offensive player his first couple of years on the varsity, but now he’s really coming around,” said Everett, in his first season as the Raiders’ head coach. “If you get the ball inside, he’s almost unstoppable.”

The problem is, Greensboro doesn’t have an offense designed for a half-court attack that works the ball inside. The up-tempo style often ignores Taylor, limiting his touches and his shots. He doesn’t mind, often taking a pass and looking for a teammate rather than looking to score.

“One thing we’ve got to do is start knocking down some of those shots,” Everett said. “He catches the ball inside and guys cut off of him, and he’s a great passer. He’s really unselfish, a humble kid, not only on the court, but in school, he’s academically talented as well. Words can’t express what he means to us.”

Taylor displayed the same humble attitude when informed of his selection as the 3A boys regional’s most valuable player.

“It felt pretty good because it’s my last year, my senior year,” he said. “But if they would have given it to one of my teammates, I wouldn’t have minded.”

Greensboro (27-2) will face Madison Academy in the state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, joining Class 5A Wenonah as one of two boys teams chasing its third consecutive state championship.

“It feels great,” Taylor said. “The first championship was in the 10th grade, and it was the first in school history in basketball. To go out with a three-peat like this would be like a legacy in Greensboro.”

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