Two major upsets on Wednesday night showed how tight the competition is in men’s A grade this year.
The final round is next week and there is all to play for as Newlands take on MSA Team Donkey and Nomads play Wildlife to finalise the standings before the finals crossovers beginning September 9.
Here’s how Brian Kerr saw the action this week:
First game was the current competition leaders Newlands taking on an ever improving College team looking for their third win in as many days.
College started the better as they settled into their work, again utilising their half court man to man defence. It took Newlands a while to settle but when they did they managed to draw it back to 20 – 18 in favour of College.
The second quarter was initially a good start by Newlands, however College were able to increase their defensive intensity as well as speeding the game up to push the lead out to 41 – 33 at the end of the half.
The third quarter was evenly matched as both teams went basket for basket. Newlands would go on a mini roll, just for College to return the favour. College leading 63 – 53 going into the final quarter.
Newlands needed to score early to set momentum, however it was the College boys that set the tone. They struck early and regularly to push the lead out, however Newlands kept fighting. A College timeout and then the floodgates opened up as College broke away. Newlands fell away and College ran out comfortable winners 95 – 73.
Riley Sa found his long range shooting to go with his excellent driving to finish with 32 points (6 – 3 pointers) in a good all round display. Kambell Stills had another top night at the office, grabbing numerous rebounds and being deadly from mid-range finishing with 22 points.
Liam Sullivan had a nice return to form combining some good drives with hitting from range. He was hardworking on defence finishing the game with 18 points (4 – 3 pointers).
For Newlands, It was Randy Buenafe leading the way with 22 points (2 – 3 pointers), Marc Juntilla with 17 points (1 – 3 pointer) and Sam Rodgers with 14 points (2 – 3 pointers).
College carried on with their good defensive work of late. They contained Juntilla on the drive and generally did a good job managing the Newlands fast break.
Offensively wise College were good on their set structures. They managed to up the tempo of the game especially in the fourth quarter to allow their fast break to function hence scoring 32 points in the final quarter.
Newlands were in the match up until early in the fourth quarter but were overrun. It was clear that they missed the services of Nick Fechney who was out injured and Ramil Ilumin (unavailable)
Three from three in as many days for the College boys. A top week for them.
The second game was between Wildlife and MSA Team Donkey. It turned out to be a cracker of a match.
The first quarter opened with MSA Team Donkey making the early running. However Wildlife managed to stay close. MSA Team Donkey with the early 22 – 17 lead.
The second quarter started off well for MSA Team Donkey as they found their combinations to score. Wildlife struggling somewhat to find the basket. MSA Team Donkey taking their lead out to 43 – 33. Then things went wrong for MSA Team Donkey. Wildlife found another gear as they went on a roll to only trail 43 – 42 at the break.
After the break, Wildlife continued on as they’d finished the second quarter and next thing they had powered to a 63 – 44 lead. A 31 – 1 run. Finally MSA Team Donkey managed to find the basket, only for Wildlife to reply twice in kind to push the score out to 67 – 46. Finally MSA Team Donkey stopped the rot and began their fightback reducing the lead to 67 – 53 by the end of the quarter.
Come the fourth quarter and MSA Team Donkey weren’t done. They’d by now matched up and were making Wildlife work hard for their baskets. They were stringing together better plays and began creeping towards the Wildlife score. Soon it was down to single figures and momentum had definitely swayed. However just as MSA Team Donkey looked likely, Wildlife were able to score a couple of tough baskets to keep them at bay. With 11 seconds on the clock, MSA Team Donkey trailed 79 – 75, however Wildlife pressured hard on the ball which stopped MSA Team Donkey from scoring a quick basket to give themselves a chance to press and to try and turn the ball over. They could only manage a last second 3 pointer which took the final score to 79 – 78 to Wildlife.
For Wildlife it was Sam Pearce leading the way with 25 points (6 – 3 pointers) in a top all round performance. Emiliano Guerra was strong on the drive and delivered a couple of crunch baskets when needed. He finished with 23 points. Sean Hunter adding 14 points.
For MSA Team Donkey Fotu Hala showed his all-round skills whether it was from range, the drive or the assist. He finished with 23 points (3 – 3 pointers). Cam Butler toiled hard for his 20 points (1 – 3 pointer) and Pip Johnston finished with 15 (3 – 3 pointers).
This was a game noted for the big runs in the game especially Wildlife’s 31 – 1 run. It wasn’t so much that MSA Team Donkey were playing badly, it was simply that they just could not buy a basket. They had numerous opportunities and uncharacteristically missed a lot of easy baskets. They were looking down the barrel of a massive defeat at being 21 points down at one stage but showed a lot of character in coming back the way they did. Even when Johnston fouled out with 5 ½ minutes to go they pushed hard.
Wildlife on the other hand worked hard on defence in a physical encounter. They had weathered a couple of storms but managed to fight their way out. They showed a lot of resilience in getting the win in a highly entertaining game of basketball.