Barking & Dagenham Erkenwald 70
Harlow Hawks 68
Erks restored some pride after a difficult Founders Cup campaign with a dogged victory over Shab Niaz's Harlow Hawks in a tight game that ebbed and flowed. Centre Dave Churches topped the scoring for the Erks with 25 points including a huge (if somewhat ugly) 3 pointer that pulled the Erks from the brink of defeat at 4 points down in overtime, however it was his veteran colleague Steve Herd who proved the key player, as he rollied back the years with a superb offensive performance, particularly in the 3rd quarter as he alternated base line jump shots with fake & drive moves to carry the Erks to a 9 point lead that they only gave up with Ben Wallis's jump shot 5 seconds from the end of the game.
After a time-out, Adrian Leclair's floater failed to drop on the buzzer, so a tired Erks side were consigned to overtime. And things were looking bleak at 68-64 with little over a minute left, however Churches 3 pointer followed by a pair of free throws from the big man gave the Erks the lead and Leclair's 1 from 2 after the Hawks fouled to stop the clock gave the Hawks the ball back at 2 down with 6 seconds remaining. Good defense from the Erks forced a long jump shot, which missed left & as Herd gathered the rebound, the Erks were finally able to celebrate a victory in the 2005/6 competition.
Early on, it was the Hawks who raced into an early lead, as Ben Wallis proved hard to stop on the break and despite tight defence from Adrian Leclair, Shab Niaz popped up to hit his first 4 three point attempts. However the Erks kept in touch as Churches battled around the basket with Martin Overare taking advantage of some nifty dishes from point guard Adrian Leclair, who realising his jump shot wasn't falling, drove to the basket. Although the Erks trailed at half-time, the key for the hosts was the 3rd quarter, as they held the visitors to just 2 free-throws in the first 6 minutes. In reply Steve Herd hit 8 points and Dave Churches took full advantage of Matt Clarkson's frustration, as the Hawks forward picked up a technical after contesting a foul called on Churches, the Erks cetnre hitting all 4 freebies to rocket the hosts into a double digit lead.
However that was as good as it got for the Erks, as they were finding points increasingly hard to come by and the Hawks chipped away at the lead throughout the final period through Wallis & Scott Marvin, Wallis finally tying the scores with a baseline jumper 5 seconds from the end of regulation. Overtime looked to be a period too far for the Erks, who had relied primarily on a 6 man rotation in the absence of Fun Ed Bailey, however with both of the Hawks big men fouling out, the Erks were able to hand around before Churches and Leclair provided the happy ending.
Erks now require a mathmatical miracle if they are to qualify, as they need to beat North Herts by a decent margin in the New Year and then can still only progress as runners-up in a convoluted tie-break scenario, however at least pride has been restored for the holders!
Churches 25, Leclair 18, Herd 16, Overare 6, McCusker 3, Agbolegbe 2, Atkinson, French.
Report posted: 28/12/05