The ease of victory and the joy of a 2-0 start to the season was tempered Sunday afternoon.
Well before the Maine Red Claws were congratulating themselves after a 127-100 rout of the Erie BayHawks, they were gathered around teammate Jermaine Taylor.
Taylor, the veteran guard with NBA experience, crashed to the floor while cutting to the basket in the third quarter. In obvious pain, Taylor was eventually helped off the floor, keeping weight off his injured left leg.
“I hated to see that,” said forward Chris Wright, one of the players assisting Taylor. “He’s a good friend of mine.”
Taylor, 26, appeared to have injured his left knee. He left the game for tests, the results of which were not known completely on Sunday.
The Red Claws were up 64-57 at the time of the injury – 10:57 left in the quarter – and, evident of their advertised depth this year, Maine continued to cruise. The Red Claws held a 94-77 lead after the quarter and kept on building the lead.
Wright led all scorers with 25, one of six Red Claws in double figures. Both Romero Osby (19 points/10 rebounds) and Damen Bell-Holter (10/12) enjoyed double-doubles. Frank Gaines hit 5 of 5 3-pointers for 22 points. Corey Almond (12 points) made 4 of 6 threes, while Marcel Anderson added 13 points and six assists. Abdul Gaddy dished out nine assists. Chris Babb grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Good team win,” a subdued Maine Coach Mike Taylor said.
The coach, no relation to the player, has mentored him since 2010, when Mike Taylor was an assistant coach for Rio Grande Valley and Jermaine Taylor was a player for the Vipers.
Mike Taylor was visibly upset, his eyes reddened.
“The difficult thing is JT is playing the best basketball of his life – very close to an NBA call-up,” the coach said. “You can’t control it. How many times has he made a jump stop like that in his life? It just happens.”
As Jermaine Taylor was tended to on the floor, Red Claws trickled off the bench to be near their teammate.
“It was tough to see him go down,” said Gaines, a rookie shooting guard. “He’s someone I look up to.”
Gaines credited Jermaine Taylor for helping him with his jump shot in training camp. “I was struggling,” Gaines said.
Gaines, the Red Claws second-round draft pick out of Indiana/Purdue University-Fort Wayne, came off the bench and began firing – with few misses.
“Frank really picked us up,” Wright said.
The BayHawks dropped to 0-2. Guard Mustafa Shakur led with 24 points. Chris Smith, the New York Knicks guard on assignment to Erie (and brother of the Knicks’ J.R. Smith) had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Erie trailed 34-23 after one quarter. The BayHawks rallied to tie it 53-53, only to watch Maine take off on an 11-2 run for a 64-55 halftime lead.
When Taylor got hurt, the Red Claws seemed to pick it up more.
“Really pleased with the way the guys played, especially the way they responded in the second half,” Mike Taylor said. “The guys played with a little extra motivation, but with a heavy heart.”
The Red Claws travel to Fort Wayne, Ind. for a Friday night game with the Mad Ants. The team returns to Portland Dec. 7 for a 7 p.m. game against Idaho.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: