By Ryan Gillham
Durham Wildcats completed a dramatic comeback to secure their third victory of the season with a 69-64 victory over Manchester Giants at Durham University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton-On-Tees.
The Wildcats, on the back of last week’s dominant win against basement side Mersey Tigers, trailed by 16 points at one stage but fought back to claim the win.
It was a positive start from both sides in the opening minutes of the game, but the Giants took control of the game after pressing early to take an 8-13 lead. Durham struggled to find the basket midway through the quarter as Manchester gained a five-point lead which led to coach Dave Elderkin call a time-out for his side with the score at 12-18. The time-out was to give the Wildcats a boost but the Giants closed out the first with the score line in their favour at 17-23.
Manchester continued their dominant start in the second, creating a 10 point gap between them and the Wildcats with some creative movement from their two guards Jones and Gill at 27-12. The pace stepped up a notch as the Wildcats battled hard to bring back the deficit and caused the Giants to foul and Baldarelli took advantage by making both free throws to close the gap to eight points. Despite some explosive rebounding by Andrew Keister, it wasn’t enough to spur Durham on to make a comeback as the Giants improved on their 10 point lead in the second quarter and the score at half-time stood at 30-42 to the visitors.
Wildcats entered the third with some woeful shooting from close range and it gave the Giants the opportunity to increase their lead which they took full advantage of as they created a 16 point gap at 33-49. Mike Baldarelli executed two three-point shots from deep to bring the score back to within 12 at 39-51.
Durham start to play with some intensity half way through the third and forcing the Giants into foul trouble with four minutes left on the clock and brought the deficit back to within single figures at 44-51. The momentum was with the Wildcats as they pulled the game back to within five points of the Giants at 46-51 with two minutes remaining.
Wildcats were dominant on both sides of the court with Manchester failing to claim a basket as Durham brought it to within one point, 52-53. Stefan Gill’s three point shot from deep dropped for the Giants as the third ended 52-55 to Manchester.
Mike Baldarelli makes it a tied ball game to start the final quarter with a huge shot from downtown as the score stood 55-55. The momentum carried on for Durham with some impressive defence, creating a fast break opportunity for Paul Elderkin to give the Wildcats the lead at 57-55.
Giants coach Jeff Jones was forced to call a time out after a Keith Page three pointer gave the Wildcats a five-point lead at 60-55 but the run finally ended when Dave Watts nailed a three from the corner to make the score 62-58. Brad Guinane piled the pressure on Manchester after impressively draining his three point shot from range to create a seven point deficit at 66-59 with 2:30 on the clock.
Paul Elderkin caused two turnovers for the Wildcats allowing the Giants back into the game with the score at 66-64. Giants Coach Jeff Jones called a timeout after Bucci converted 1/2 at the free throw line with 18 seconds left on the clock. Captain Ralph Bucci confirmed the win for the Wildcats after converting both free throws as the final score stood at the buzzer, 69-64!
Head coach of the Wildcats, Dave Elderkin spoke after the game about how important their defensive display was after a poor offensive performance, “It was truly an outstanding display on defence tonight and hugely important after a shooting woe,” he said.
“The team really came together as a unit tonight and we got the richly deserved win.”
M.V.P – Andrew Keister; 18 rebounds and 10 points. His defensive display under the basket and explosive rebound set the bar for the rest of the team.