Erks 2 96
16th Reg 75
Declan McCusker's Erkenwald produced their best performance of the season in the game that mattered, to complete a second successive Essex Metropolitan League and Play-Off double. Although the writing appeared to be on the wall for the Erks as they trailed 45-42 at half-time and looked to be tiring fast against the supremely fit and physical Woolwich based 16th Regiment of the Royal Artillery, an inspired second half saw the Erks pull away to a resounding victory.
Erks started with a big and experienced line-up to attempt to control the rebounding against a smaller but more athletic Army side, veteran 6'9 centre Dave Churches being joined by forwards Paul Hayden and Steve Herd and guards John Kimani and Declan McCusker. The game immediately settled into a very competitive affair, the Army side looking to force turnovers and run the floor at every opportunity and relying on star guard George from the outside in the half-court game. The Erks looking to pound the ball inside to their big men to utilise their size advantage.
The first quarter ended tied at 14-14, but the second quarter saw both teams get more offensive rhythm. Forward Martin Overare, a regular starter throughout the season, was held back to provide some scoring impetus from the bench and he played the role to perfection, energising the Erks with some trademark athletic moves around the hoop. Shooter Lee Atkinson also entered the game and hit a couple of quick baskets and when John Kimani hit successive 3 pointers, the Erks had opened up a 6 point lead. However, the Army side stormed straight back, point guard George hitting 12 points in the final 3 minutes of the half to give his team a 45-42 advantage.
George had 22 points at half-time and was looking like the difference between the sides, so Erks' coach McCusker switched to a zone defence at half-time in an attempt to force the other Army players to shoot. The switch worked perfectly, as Herd, Kimani and Overare worked tirelessly to restrict George to difficult outside shots and Churches and Hayden rebounded heroically. With the Army struggling to score, the Erks started to play with more confidence at the offensive end. Churches and Kimani both draining open 3 pointers and successive hoops from Herd helped the Erks to a 62-53 advantage midway through the 3rd period.
However it was to be man of the match Overare who finally broke the Army's resistance, using his reliable bank shot and driving to the hoop relentlessly, Overare hit 16 of the Erks first 21 points in the final quarter as they opened up a winning 88-67 lead. Despite some late 3 pointers from George, who finished with a game high 37 points, the Erks maintained control and the final 96-75 scoreline was a fair reflection of a superb 2nd half performance, easily the Erks best 20 minutes of the season against a good 16 Regiment side.
Overare 35, Kimani 21, Churches 16, Herd 10, Hayden 8, Atkinson
4, McCusker 2, Bromfield, Williams.
Report posted: 14/05/04