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Taylor increases buzz about Regents with buzzer-beaters

Monday, February 02, 2009  
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By Jay Taft
Posted Feb 02, 2009 @ 12:31 AM

ROCKFORD — Rennell Taylor has been making game-winning shots his whole life. The only difference this year is that his knack for the dramatic is helping turn around a team that was in disarray less than a year ago.

Rockford College dealt with injuries, ineligible players and lackluster performances while going 1-24 last season. Taylor, a 5-foot-10 senior guard from Chicago, played in the last 11 games of the 2007-08 season, and he remembers the gut-wrenching feeling he had after every double-digit defeat.

“It was rough, real rough,” Taylor said.

That feeling has changed this season, and Taylor is a big reason why.

“Everything is different this year. The coaches have made sure that everybody is more focused and more serious, and we’re a whole new team with a whole new attitude,” said Taylor, who had three game-winning shots with four seconds or less left from Jan. 3-22. “When you get a couple of wins that way, it gives everybody confidence, it helps everybody believe.”

One year after the worst season in school history, Rockford (11-9, 6-6 NAC) is a half-game out of second place in the NAC North and has the third-most victories in the league. A 73-66 home loss to Benedictine set the Regents back to .500 in conference play, but they have still won six out of their past nine contests and have changed the way teams look at them on the schedule.

“We kept telling ourselves that with these new guys, we could turn the corner. We’re still playing with a chip on our shoulder, and we’re still earning respect in this league, but we are definitely on our way,” second-year head coach Ryan Rebsom said.

“We’re using these close games that we’re pulling out as motivation. I’ve become a bit of an antacid type of guy, though. These last few weeks have taken years off of my life.”

On Jan. 3, Ripon tied the game with 15 seconds left, and Rebsom set up a double-screen play for Taylor in the waning moments. Taylor worked himself off the two screens, got the ball in the lane and used a crossover dribble to free himself for an 11-foot jumper.

“I knew as soon as it left my hands,” Taylor said of the shot that dropped through with four seconds left, “that the game was over.”

Two weeks later in Rockford, Dominican’s defense could not stop Taylor all day, but the visitors sent the game into overtime, and tied it up on a bucket with 10 seconds left. Rebsom decided against a timeout and watched with his mouth open as Taylor drove the length of the court, again used a crossover dribble to get free, and swished a 12-foot running jumper from the right wing as the buzzer sounded. It was his 40th point of the night.

“I wanted him to take the shot at about 10 seconds,” Rebsom explained, “but he got rid of it with almost nothing left, and we took it. He was so hot all game, we felt good about any shot he took.”

In the Regents’ next home game, Taylor — who had nine game-winners in his high school career — did it again, this time against Lakeland in overtime. He used a spin move to free himself this time, but again swished a 12-foot jumper from the right wing with zeros on the clock.

“I had kind of used the crossover a couple of times,” Taylor said, “so I figured I had to try something different.”

Taylor, who leads the NAC in scoring with 18.5 points a game, did have a potential game-tying shot rim out against Concordia Chicago on Jan. 10, and has since missed a layup with one second left that would have tied the Jan. 24 game against Aurora.

But, as he says his mom and grandma used to put it: “You can’t get ‘em all.”

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