Erks 2 58
Waltham Forest Cardinals 50
(after overtime: ft 48-48)
Coach McCusker talks it over.
Martin Overare was strong in the paint.
Coach McCusker draws the foul.
Dave Churches 3 pointer rimmed out on the buzzer.
All Photos Copyright 2003 Peter Horrell
Declan McCusker's Erks 2 team, based at Sydney Russell school in Dagenham, completed an Essex Met play-off and league championship double with a hard fought victory over a valiant Cardinals team.
Erks 2, with only 2 Essex Met defeats all season, were hot favourites to add the play-off crown to their league title and looked to be justifying that tag as they got off to a flying start. Martin Overare's acrobatic play around the basket has been a welcome addition to the Erks' squad this season and he scored the first six points of the game, using his quickness and athleticism to dominate his marker. With a Dave Churches 3 pointer and a pair of Lee Atkinson jump shots, the Erks opened up a 13-2 advantage and seemed set to run away with the game, however the opening 5 minutes proved to be the only time in the game that Erks could get any offensive rhythm. The Cardinals picked up their defence and roared back into contention as Marvin Willson and John Baulkham started to hit from mid-range and their outstanding point guard Molnar hit a pair of 3 pointers and exploited the lenient refereeing to steal the ball from Erks point guard David Passacantilli on a number of occasions.
As the Cardinals started to hit their shots, Erkenwald continued to follow their tried and trusted route of feeding the ball into their 6'9 centre Dave Churches, but after a long season of well over 50 games for both Ware in the National League and the Erks and Canvey Island based Blazers in 3 local leagues, the play-off final was a game too far for Churches. His touch around the basket deserted him and although the big man top-scored with 17 points, he needed over 30 shots to reach that total. In contrast, 6'6 forward Paul Hayden looked sharp in the first half and his 8 points kept the Erks in touch at the halftime break, just 32-30 behind.
The second half was a painstaking affair, with defences well on top and Cardinals seemingly always one step ahead. The Erks somehow managed to limit their deficit to 6 points and in a dramatic finish, they held the Cardinals scoreless for the last 6 minutes of the game as Hayden, Overare and finally player-coach McCusker hit baskets to tie the scores. When the Erks had possession with 30 seconds remaining, the scene was set for somebody to hit a game winner, but after Churches' 3 pointer rimmed out, the teams went to overtime.
The momentum was all with Erkenwald at that point though and with Churches finally connecting from long range and McCusker stepping up again with 2 successive drives to the basket, the overtime period belonged to the Erks who ran out 58-50 winners as Cardinals star Molnar finally ran out of steam after being tightly marked by a succession of Erks defenders.
Erks 2: Churches 17, Overare 15, Hayden 10, McCusker 9, Atkinson 4, Pasacantilli 2, Glennard 1, Bromfield.
Cardinals: Willson 17, Molnar 14, Baulkham 10, Gooden 4, Bubb 3, Dupuis 2, Gabriel, Hunter, Ladipo, Andrews.
Report posted: 23/05/03