Two cracker games marked the start of playoffs in the Mid Canterbury men’s A grade basketball competition this week. Here’s how Brian Kerr saw it:
The start of the finals campaign began Wednesday night as second-ranked Newlands took on fifth-ranked Nomads in the first game of the evening.
Nomads had the better of the early exchanges as Newlands’ defence was found a little wanting. However they settled and got their way back to trail 25–22.
The second quarter was all Newlands as Marvin Agacer lit up hitting five 3-pointers in the quarter. They were also able find holes in the Nomads defence to take the lead 55–43 at the break.
The third quarter was a real struggle for Nomads. Not only were they struggling to score points, they allowed Newlands room to continue hitting from the arc. Things were looking grim for Nomads as they were down 79-58.
So the fourth quarter was all to play for as the loser was out of the competition. Nomads matched up and were able to turn the ball over as Newlands went into neutral. Nomads began finding their range as well as dissecting the Newlands defence. Suddenly that 21-point lead was back to 11 points and there were distinct signs of panic in the Newlands camp.
A timeout was needed to stop the rot, however the next three minutes was absolutely manic as both teams just went hard at it. Nomads had to push the ball up the court to get quick baskets, however Newlands wanted to reciprocate.
Whilst it was a little untidy it was absorbing basketball as both teams went to and fro without either team really being able to take any advantage.
A couple of big baskets at the end by Newlands managed to snuff out a desperate Nomads challenge in a good game of basketball. Newlands triumphing 95–85.
For Newlands, the scoring was shared with five players scoring double figures. Nick Fechney 21 points (three 3-pointers) back from his ankle injury and nearly back to his best. Sam Rodgers had a top game with 18 points (three 3-pointers). Marvin Agacer was decisive in the second quarter hitting his five 3-pointers which gave Newlands the scoring break. He finished with 15 points along with Randy Buenafe
(two 3-pointers) and Marc Juntilla (three 3-pointers).
For Nomads it was Kody Stuthridge with 19 points (two 3-pointers) looking dangerous especially in the first half. Tony Gilbert was excellent inside the paint as he finished with 19 points also. Mikey Johnson back from a knee injury sparked the Nomads revival in the fourth quarter hitting 16 points (four 3-pointer).
Nomads showed some real resilience here as they came back from 22 points down to give themselves a chance at an unlikely victory. Some hardworking defence paired with some basic turnovers by Newlands gave them a sniff, however the gap just proved too much.
Newlands on the other hand were good especially in the second quarter when Marvin Agacer got hot which allowed them to put space between them and Nomads. They continued that on in the third quarter when they pushed that lead out even further.
However in the last quarter they lost composure when they held a good lead. Maybe they got a little complacent thinking they had it in the bag. However they were good enough to finish the job.
The second game was fourth-placed College taking on third-placed Wildlife. College hadn’t competed well in the previous two games against Wildlife so they were aiming to put that right.
The game started off reasonably evenly, however it was Wildlife that were able to get the ball inside strongly and take a 27-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter continued as it had left off, Wildlife causing all sorts of problems for the young College defence. To add to their woes they couldn’t find the basket even though they were getting good looks. Wildlife pushed out to a 46–27 lead at the break.
College needed something in this quarter, however it was Wildlife that were able to start best. They pushed out their lead to 58–37 and the College were struggling. However a timeout and a refocus allowed College to regather themselves even if it was just to level things out. They finished the better and trailed 72 – 54 going into the final quarter.
So 18 points down and College had nothing to lose. They went full court man to man with the aim of pressurising the pass into court. It slowly began to have an effect as turnovers were created. College also upped their speed and where their shots hadn’t previously fallen, they began finding their mark.
Wildlife began to implode as they struggled to get any sort of continuity as the College defence intensified. They then lost focus by questioning calls which impacted on the team structure. Two technical fouls were also called which allowed College to continue the choke until they had the lead. From there College were disciplined and held out for a 90 – 85 win.
For College Kambell Stills finished with 31 points (one 3-pointer). He started off slowly offensively, however was massive in the fourth quarter in scoring 17 points. He worked hard on defence and pulled down a lot of rebounds. Riley Sa fought his way through an injured ankle impressing with 18 points (two 3-pointers). Jacob Swan continued his good form scoring 14 points (two 3-pointers) and doing a good all round job. Thomas Patterson as usual working hard on defence as well as grabbing himself 14 points.
For Wildlife it was Jase O’Connor proving a handful as he drove strongly to the hoop top scoring with 24 points (one 3-pointer) and Sean Hunter also being tough to contain until fouling out at the start of the fourth quarter. He finished with 23 points.
This game was entirely Wildlife’s to lose at the start of the fourth quarter and they managed it. Instead of continuing to play basketball as they had, they got caught up in contesting referees calls, so much so that it affected their whole team structure. As College came hard at them, they fell away. They also picked up two technical fouls when they could least afford it which gifted College opportunities.
College on the other hand showed a terrific amount of fight in the fourth quarter and not for the first time this season. They also showed more maturity than their counterparts especially in the last two minutes. They pressed hard and when they created the turnover, they made it count.
The referees did a really good job officiating a tough, physical game where there was a lot of contact by both teams, much of it incidental.
So an expected victory, although hard fought and an upset. This lines us up for a couple of top games next week. Semi-finals next week as Newlands take on College, whilst Wildlife take on MSA Team Donkey.