By Ryan Gillham
Durham triumphed over fellow play-off challengers Cheshire Phoenix in an outstanding display, triumphing 101-96 at Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.
The Wildcats came out all guns blazing in what was their best start to a BBL game in their short history.
It was a high scoring start to the game as Durham came out on top with some impressive shooting from behind the three-point line despite Cheshire been on their tails through the quarter.
Wildcats were already 21-13 up when the Phoenix called time with 4.23 left on the game clock but Durham kept Cheshire at an arms-length as the first finished 31-25.
The scoring run did not stop for the Wildcats as Keith Page and Mike Baldarelli caused more damage on the Phoenix side gaining a lead of 11 with six minutes remaining on the game clock.
Durham hit the half century mark with four minutes left on the clock to create a 13 point lead, 50-37. Cheshire did not seem to have an answer to the Wildcats game with Durham firing on all cylinders, moving the ball with intelligence and playing the inside game opening up a 16 point lead at 56-40.
Durham finished the quarter strong keeping a double figure lead 58-46 going into the break.
It was a positive display from the Wildcats to start the third and their scoring run continued, holding onto to the double figure lead but Durham slowly started to look tired towards the end of the quarter as the Phoenix stepped up the pace bringing the score back to within 9 at 78-69.
Cheshire brought the pressure to the Wildcats as Marks and Haskins controlling the Phoenix offence keeping the score within ninr on the buzzer at 81-72.
The tiredness really started to show to start the final quarter as Cheshire came back into the game close the deficit to within two, with eight minutes still to play in the quarter the Phoenix had the momentum.
The pace of the game took a dramatic turn as the Wildcats looked to run the clock down but keeping a minor lead with three minutes on the clock at 95-87.
Durham broke the 100 barrier in the final seconds of the game as Bucci made two free-throws to make it a four point ball game with seven seconds remaining which handed the Wildcats the victory as the final score board showed 101-96.
Head Coach Dave Elderkin was emphatic after his team’s victory.
“It was such a great win after last night’s close defeat to Surrey Heat,” he said.
“Fitness has been a priority for us and all our hard work is paying off. It was a good comeback from Cheshire in the second half but we did our job to hold them off.”
Ex-Wildcat Chris Pearce was on the opposite side of the court as he made his first visit back to the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre playing for Cheshire.
He said: “It was great to come back and see some old faces but I have to say it was strange being on the other end of the court this time.
“Durham played brilliant tonight, I’m pleased to see the improvement and the hard work coach Elderkin has put into the club. I would like the thank everyone for their warm welcome.”