National League Basketball sponsored by TADEA; Sustainable Energy Solutions & Heaven Scent; Yankee Candles Middlesbrough
TADEA Middlesbrough Lions would travel to Chester to face a stern test against the Cheshire Jets with just seven travelling players and only six of these participating with player/coach James Thomson’s knee injury restricting him to un-used back up.
Cheshire who boast a number of young players who play for their professional BBL team have been doing well in the league and would emerge as a tenacious side with a strong perimeter threat. The Jets would hit four 3-pointers in the first half but Lions proved they were a match from the offset as Anthony Humes scooped a put back and John Ford created a menace of himself gaining 6pts with a variety of skills on display. DaWaun Wells struggled initially with his shots failing to connect although a 3-pointer in the final seconds would give Lions an 16-18 advantage heading into the second quarter.
American Wells and season stalwart; Tom Robinson both struggled offensively in the second period hitting just 4 & 2pts respectively, however others stepped up with Ford and Ben Thompson producing spectacular efforts at both ends of the court. Thompson would hit 6pts and Ford would add 8 to his growing tally. The dander of Jets striking hard though was never more evident that when BBL player Ryan Gallagher slammed home an aggressive dunk in the sixth minute. The beast of a man would struggle to stay on court though as his overly aggressive defence put the big man in early foul trouble. Fellow BBL player Christian Single was another player to be wary of as he powered his way to the hoop for his 11th point shortly after the dunk.
Coach Thomson called a Time Out and Lions switched defence to their renowned Pest which encouraged the Jets into some turn overs and allowed Lions to pull back a 7pt deficit to just 3pts at the half 37-34.
In the third quarter TADEA Lions struggled to handle an offensive barrage from the home side. The Cheshire trio of Gallagher, Single and Rabah Tahrahoui, used their BBL experience to combine well for 20pts. Middlesbrough were on the back heel and although Robinson was beginning to warm up on offence the visitors were becoming increasingly frustrated at some of the calls. Another Time Out was called by Coach Thomson who insisted the refs had been good for the majority of the game and a few no-calls would not be allowed to let their heads slip. A mix of several key mistakes from Wells and Thompson combined with some big shots from Cheshire placed the momentum firmly in favour of the hosts and at the end of the third quarter Lions were down 10pts, 59-49.
Lions now had 10pts to re-claim the game, a feat that is a lot harder than it sounds when considering the opposition must be stopped a Lions would have to build a 10-0 run just to tie the game. Rob Wright would begin with an ‘And 1’ play, as well as converting the bonus shot and Wells followed in with a big 3-pointer. In the second minute Gallagher would make his last basket as this was followed by his fifth personal foul.
This provided Middlesbrough with further inspiration and a 10pts from Robinson tied the game with three minutes remaining. Tahraoui fought back for Jets while Ford responded with a sweet drive. With just over a minute left Robinson looked certain to provide Lions with the lead when he stole the ball and ran free. His attempted dunk though rattled out and with one minute to go Lewis Halpin hit two free throws to regain the lead for Cheshire.
A tense period would ensue as Jets Coach John Lavery called his second time out in as many minutes. With fouls to give Coach Thomson used the opportunity to urge his players to step up the intensity on defence, “They must not score, play hard and smart” the Middlesbrough Chief was heard saying.
As the players entered the court Robinson immediately made amends for his missed dunk with a huge block and then scoring a well drive lay up at the other end to tie the game. With another steal, Middlesbrough pushed forward their transitional play and found Ben Thompson who leapt to the basket to claim a 2pt lead with 6 seconds remaining. John Ford then stole the ball and as was then pulled back by Tahraoui sending Ford to the line with 0.5 seconds left. Coach Thomson called back his troops and instructed his players not to risk fouling by standing still. Ford made his first shot but missed his second leaving Cheshire frantically attempting a full court shot which would fail to find the target and beat the clock, earning a jubilant Lions celebrating a great victory.
The MVP was awarded to Ben Thompson (left) who was a major force at both ends of the court. The point guard who is usually content with passing the ball proved his offensive attributes with a high percentage return on his 13pts as well as a host of rebounds.
Coach Thomson found time to single Ben out for praise “I sometimes wish I had five Ben’s. He is the most dedicated and consistent member of the team. I have been encouraging him to use his shot more and today he did this and it was a crucial part of us gaining the win.”
Jets: Tahraoui 21, Single 21, Gallagher 12
TADEA Lions: Robinson 25, Wells 16, Thompson 13, Ford 12,
The win places Middlesbrough in 8th place and the team now travel to Huddersfield Heat on Saturday looking to climb the table higher with a win over Heat and last game of the season the against TV Mohawks. The Heat are aiming to beat Lions to secure their second spot and a play off place. TADEA Lions though will be boosted by this big win over Cheshire, a team that lost to Huddersfield by only 5pts.
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