Stars all but clinched the Essex Met title with a hard fought win over a depleted Erks team, a rally in the final 3 minutes seeing the Stars come back from 74-69 down to lead 81-75, after a flurry of Erks turnovers, a succession of Rodney Alexander drives to the hoop and a banked three pointer from Jon Clark finally broke the back of the Erks resistance.
The Erks were depleted as a result of Dave Churches absence at a quiz night, the veteran centre being accompanied by slightly less veteran centre Jon Lee (who is excused due to recent surgery on a ruptured Achilles) in a team rumoured to be named '11 feet 2 inches of idiot'. In a bonus for Erks website readers, we can report on both the game and the progress of our heroes at the quiz night.
The Erks started with Keith Pringle, Lee Atkinson, Mark Denchfield, Martin Overare and Craig Pringle against a Stars line-up of Paul Edwards, Graham Hill, Rodney Alexander, Rob Burns and Erroll Seaman, the first time in living memory that the Erks were the smaller, lighter and younger team. The Hainault approach from the start was to utilise their size advantage with Seaman, Alexander and Hill looking to go to work around the basket against the Erks man to man defense. A couple of early fouls hinted at a long night for the Erks, but once the game settled down the Erks did a respectable job playing Stars straight up, especially as any double onto Erroll Seaman usually resulted in a pass and open layup for the man left open.
At the other end, the Erks jump shooters came out firing, both Pringles and Denchfield taking advantage of sagging defenders to hit their shots, the Erks taking a 24-19 lead into the break.
Progress was equally encouraging at this stage for our intrepid quizzers in the Geography round, as the country of which Budapest is the capital was easily identified by Churches, although some reports indicate that he was actually enquiring when the buffet opened, as he vehemently stated "Hungry".
The Stars started the second period positively, a marked increase in defensive intensity forced turnovers and allowed opportunities for Alexander and Seaman to get out on the run against a less crowded defence. Paul Edwards also found his range to fire the Stars into a 36-30 lead. However an Erks timeout gave the hosts an opportunity to recover their composure and the introduction of Gareth Sims sparked a 3 point barrage, Sims hit one and then Keith Pringle caught fire from the top of the arc, hitting three successive bombs to regain the lead for the Erks and send them into halftime 5 points to the good at 45-40.
At the quiz, things were still going swimmingly for Churches, as the subject for the third round was 'stations of the District Line', which is second only to 'High and Mighty Summer Collections 1997-1999' as the big man's specialist subject.
The Erks emerged from the halftime break and continued where they left off, Craig Pringle hitting from the top of the key and Mark Denchfield taking advantage of being the spare man on offense (as some of the Stars were labouring back on D)with a couple of treys.
At this stage the Erks had stretched their lead to 61-44 and were in danger of pulling away, however Edwards brought the Stars back into the game as others threatened to lose their heads, hitting a lay up and a three pointer and then driving and distributing to allow Seaman and Alexander to get to the hoop. Stars closing with a 9-0 run to leave the score at 61-53 entering the final period.
Things were also starting to hot up at the quiz night, as a combination of 8 pints, 3 plates of vol-au-vents and a tricky General Knowledge round rendered Churches about as effective as he was at the reverse fixture at Stars.
The big man, like Erkenwald, was now hanging on waiting for the final whistle....
Although Craig Pringle stretched the Erks advantage to 10 points with the first basket of the final period, the Stars big men then took charge, a typical Graham Hill move and shot off the glass finishing a 6-0 run that brought the lead back down to 4. After that, baskets and free throws were traded until an unlikely hero stepped forward for the Stars, Jon Clark taking advantage of the space being afforded to him by nailing an open three to cut the margin to 1 point.
Although the Erks again fought back with a trademark Martin Overare up and under move, things started to go pear-shaped for the Erks from then on, as scenting a comeback victory, the Stars closed the lanes for Keith Pringle and with the rest of the Erks somewhat static, turnovers and bad shots were forced and Alexander needed no excuse to go coast to coast, making a pair of lay ups and drawing 2 shooting fouls. Seaman also nailed a couple of free throws to give the Stars a 78-75 lead before Jon Clark hammered the nail into the coffin with a three pointer from the top of the key that rattled in off the backboard. Amazingly Craig Pringle replied with a similar prayer to cut the margin back to 3, but Graham Hill hit one of two as he was fouled with 10 seconds remaining and although the Erks hit a two on the buzzer, time had expired to leave the visitors 82-80 winners. Stars can now afford one defeat and would still clinch a deserved title, congratulations from all at Erkenwald on taking our crown!
At the quiz night, it was a similarly sad story for Churches as the final 'History' round proved a bridge too far, the question 'What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?' being particularly unfair as Churches only started watching in the series when Bobby came out of the shower some time around 1986. The Churches/Lee axis eventually finishing out of the money in 4th place.
Erks: K Pringle 26, C Pringle 25, Denchfield 16, Overare 10, Sims 3
Stars: Alexander 28, Seaman 17, Hill 15, Edwards 14, Clark 6, Burns 2
We can also report that the Essex Met's pilot scheme to field a referee's assessor at each game was a qualified success, Daphne Charles and Ben Januskevicius no doubt benefitting from Rodney Alexander's critique of every call or non-call made whilst the Stars were on offense. Presumably the same rigorous review of calls wasn't afforded when the Erks were on offense because the assessor's position towards the half way line cheating the break didn't give him the optimum view of proceedings....
Report posted: 22/02/08