Swindon Shock (1-SW) 79 v 72 Manchester Giants (1-N)
Swindon Shock Basketball club travelled to Manchester in a battle of top 1 seeds for a semi-finals clash, with Shock players wanting to test themselves against Manchester 17-1 and Champions of the North Division.
The game began with a roar from the host team as Manchester quickly jumped out to a 7-2 lead whilst Shock tried desperately to adjust to the size and physicality of the game. “The first 5 minutes of the game were different from our norm. We played the South-east which was a trapping defence, The Midlands which were a Zone defence, and now the North which was a real up in your face hands on you all the time type of defence. But our point guard Antonio Wilburn settled everyone and kept us in the game with 21 of his 35 points in the first half.
Down 20-30 Shock made a late surge sparked by Center Matt Ford and Spencer Wells, which pulled the half-time score to 39-41. The defence also tightened up as Small Forward Matt North got key rebounds and blocks and Lee Hobbis added tremendous pressure on Manchester leading scorer Josh Houghton holding him to a no points for the remainder of the second quarter.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair with Shock outscoring the host 17-16. “We went in at halftime and I said to the guys we need to just keep it close and let them know they are in a fight. They have only had one close game all season and we have had 3 in a row, let’s see if they can play in the clutch like we can”.
Shock responded with big baskets from Matic Iskra who came in to give Matt Ford and Matt North breathers throughout the second half. “Matic is one of our best defenders and offensively he is technically sound. It is even better when he provides you with points, he’s one of those players who does the dirty work and doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves”.
The fourth quarter was again a seesaw battle in which Shock surrendered a 5 point lead with two minutes to play. Down 3 points Chris Cole got by his defender for a quick two points and pulled the visitors within one before a Dominik Sajovic pump fake sent a defender flying bye and scored to put Shock up 73-72 with 1.11 seconds to go.
Panicked Manchester went to their ace Houghton to try and win the game. “That was the moment I knew we had the game, we had identified their leading scorer and we put Alistair Tilney on him early because of his height and length, we countered with Lee Hobbis in the second and third because of his aggressive nature on defence and then we hit him with Chris Cole late because of his strength”.
Houghton who would score 17 on the day was limited to 3 points in the 4th quarter and be shut out in the last few minutes of the game. Up 72-71 with 16 seconds left Houghton drove on Chris Cole for the lead and watched his shot go off the rim and into the hands of Matt North. Manchester would not only foul North, sending him to the line for 2 free throws, but Houghton would fling Matt North to the ground gaining an un-sportsman like penalty allowing for two more shots and the ball. Matt North would go on to make all four of his shots before Spencer Wells got two more to end the game at 79-72. “This was an awesome game, as a team, we went 14-14 from the free-throw line in a close game. More importantly, our tactics worked to perfection. We saw the film on them and knew they were a bit of a hot-headed team and their frustration and un-sportsman like play gifted us points throughout the game as they couldn’t stop yelling and screaming at the officials”.
The win places Shock in the Finals that will be held at the Manchester Bell Vue Centre on the 22nd of April at 12 pm.