Erks 2 56
Waltham Forest Spitfires 54
Steve Herd under pressure.
Top scorer Dave Churches looks to skies.
All Photos Copyright 2004 Peter Horrell
Essex Met league champions Erkenwald ground out a hard fought win against the youthful Leyton based Spitfires to keep alive hopes of a second successive league & play-off double. Although the Erks trailed for most of the game, sometimes by as many as 10 points, a late surge saw the Erks open up a 7 point lead with only 2 minutes to play. Although the Spitfires cut the lead to 2 with 15 seconds left after former Erks junior Steven Campbell completed a 3 point play, the Erks managed to hold on for the victory, as although John Kimani missed 2 free throw attempts after Spitfires fouled to stop the clock, Erks forward Paul Hayden secured a huge rebound on the second shot and Erks passed the ball around to run out the clock.
Earlier only centre Dave Churches stood between the Spitfires and a place in the final, as the Leyton side raced out to an early lead behind some great outside shooting and aggressive rebounding. However, 3 successive 3 pointers and some strong moves around the basket from Churches allowed the Erks to close the first half at 31-31, Churches hitting 20 of Erkenwald's points.
Once again Spitfires opened up a lead at the start of the 3rd quarter, however an unfortunate injury to their main rebounder stalled the Spitfires momentum and the Erks stormed back, guards Chris Olufeso and Lee Atkinson hitting from outside to keep the Erks in touch. The final quarter was a desperately fought affair, Erks coach Declan McCusker switching his team's defence to concentrate on subduing the Spitfires star guard Michael Alalade. This strategy proved successful as it forced Alalade to work harder for his points and also meant that the crucial shots at the end of the game were taken by some of the Spitfires less heralded players. As the Spitfires struggled to score, the Erks made their move, John Kimani overcoming a difficult night to chip in with a couple of key baskets and Olufeso and Churches also contributing as the Erks opened up the 7 point lead that was to prove just enough!
The Erks now await the winner of the other semi-final which pits the Highams Park based East London Lakers against the Woolwich based 16 Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
Dave Churches 26, Chris Olufeso 11, Lee Atkinson 8, John Kimani 8, Paul Hayden 3, Declan McCusker, Richard Williams, Steve Herd, Dave Bromfield.
Report posted: 28/04/04