By Ryan Gillham
The Wildcats came out on top after winning in overtime, 95-92 in what was a Christmas cracker at the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.
It was London Lions who made the early impression by taking a 0-4 lead at the start of the first but it wasn’t long before Durham created some great opportunities and bringing the score line with 1 point of their visitors at 8-9. Some instinctive passing from Bucci handed fellow guard Baldarelli two open baskets to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game. It was a very competitive start by both sides as the first ended as a tied ball game at 18-18.
A shaky open couple of minutes for the Wildcats with the Lions gaining a 13 point lead as Sam Johnson missed few open looks and Durham failing to convert from inside the paint. Wildcats captain Bucci finally ended the drought scoring from behind the arc which then lead the rest of his team to pick up their game towards the final few minutes going on a 7-2 run to bring the score to 27-35. The remaining two minutes of the second saw both sides exchanging baskets with some explosive play but it was the visitors that took the lead going into the third as the score board showed on the half time buzzer, 37-45.
Durham came out the stronger side after the break with brilliant shooting from Guinane to bring the score line to within 4 points but the run from the Wildcats found it difficult with some confusing refereeing decisions which never went their way helping the Lions open up a 9 point lead at 53-62. Despite with calls not going their way the Wildcats battled on to bring the game within 5, leading into the final quarter at 59-64.
A very exciting start in the fourth as both sides traded like for like shots with the Lions holding a 9 point lead cancelling out an impressive display by the Wildcats. The Wildcats offense progressively got better as the game went on but they failed to stop a strong Lions side as they held a 10 point lead at 72-82 with 3:30 left on the clock. The Lions didn’t have an answer to the Wildcats game as they went on a 10-0 run and Brad Guinane nailing a huge three pointer tying the ball game and taking the game into overtime with the score at the end of the fourth standing at 84-84.
The crowd were ecstatic throughout the 5 minutes of overtime as the Wildcats held a lead for the majority of the time with Ralph Bucci and Brad Guinane hitting two from behind the three point line and taking a 2 point lead and forcing a Lions turnover and the Wildcats claimed the victory winning by 3, 95-92.
Dave Elderkin was elated with his team’s performance and spoke about how all the preparation leading up to the game has paid off; “The team showed great character and it was a fantastic team performance.” He said, “I felt this game was a long time coming but I have to give a big shout out to our fitness coach, Cameron Henderson and Michael Davies for all their work they have done in training despite Michael not receiving any minutes but he has played a huge part in training.”
M.V.P – Mike Baldarelli; An outstanding shooting performance which encouraged the rest of his team on their way to victory.
Durham Wildcats – Mike Baldarelli; 25 points, 5 rebounds, Brad Guinane; 20 points, 3 rebounds, Keith Page; 14 points, 5 assists.
London Lions – Michael Martin; 20 points, 4 rebounds, Tayo Ogedengbe 18 points, 2 assists, Adrien Stuart; 18 points, 6 rebounds.