Beaten by Sledgehammers in last year's final, Erks went one step further on Saturday afternoon beating Southend Saints and collecting their first silverware of the season. In a classic matchup that pitted age and experience against youth and energy, both teams played their part in an entertaining encounter in front of a noisy crowd of supporters. For three quarters the game was delicately balanced with neither team able to stamp their authority on the game however it was the final quarter that proved decisive for the Southend based side as they were outscored 20 - 6 and with it lost the game.
It was a slow start for both teams as they traded scores in the first quarter and neither team was able to earn any significant lead. Saints' Emptage was the most accurate shooter racking up 12 of Saints' 23 first quarter points. Mark Denchfield opened the Erks account with a three pointer and then Dave Churches and Steve Herd got to work inside to hit 8 and 7 points respectively. Erks' outside threat was kept alive by Keith Pringle who added another 5. The period ended with the score tied at 23.
The second period saw the Saints race into the lead off the back of Emptage's free throws and a Hayes field goal. Erks responded with 9 - 0 run that included Keith Pringle converting an "and 1" and Dave Churches hitting two free throws. Even a second Denchfield three pointer didn't seem to phase the Saints as they continued to find offensive success. Both teams traded baskets however it was Erks who were now slightly in front. Declan McCusker capped off the second period as he amazingly jumped over significantly bigger opponents to tip in Keith Pringle's missed buzzer beater shot and take the Erks into a 45 - 40 point half time lead.
Mark Denchfield opened the penultimate quarter hitting two consecutive three pointers and, with Steve Herd and Keith Pringle adding two points each, the Erks lead extended to 55 - 42 and it appeared "game over" for the Saints. However, it was obvious that Coach Pearl's team had not read the script and they responded magnificently with a 14 - 0 run led by 9 points from Jones and the quarter ended 62 - 60 in favour of Erks.
Although the previous period had belonged to the Saints, it was Erks who dominated the final one. Mark Denchfield opened the scoring hitting his sixth three pointer. However, this time Erks' defence was totally in control allowing Saints only two three pointers in the final ten minutes. Saints' troubles increased when three players fouled out in the final three minutes as they finally paid the price trying to cope with Erks' bigger front court.
In the end the older and more experienced Erks prevailed over Coach Pearl's impressive young outfit. Mark Denchfield led the Erks with 25 points, including 7 three pointers, while Jones and Emptage led the Saints with 20 each. Erks' outside game was ably supported by their tough frontcourt led by centre Dave Churches and forwards Steve Herd, Martin Overare and swing man Declan McCusker. Back up guards Lee Atkinson and Dela Agbolegbe also played their part in earning Erks their first trophy this year especially as Canadian guard Adrian Leclair was unavailable.
Erks are next in action on Thursday 27th April when they host Hainault in the semi final of the EMBL Play offs. Tip off is 20:30.
M. Denchfield 25, D. Churches 18, K. Pringle 14, S. Herd 13, M. Overare 8, D. McCusker 4, L. Atkinson, D. Agbolegbe
L. Jones 20, L. Emptage 20, J. Harris 8, C. Hayes 8, T. Ronan 4, M. Pearl 2
Report posted: 16/04/06