The Men’s Basketball 1st Team survived a late scare to progress to the Last 16 of the Northern Conference Cup in a breathless 66-64 victory on Wednesday evening. An assured performance at the Sports and Fitness Centre held off a spirited fightback from the University of Leeds 2nd Team, with the result continuing their bright start to the new basketball season.
Both sides began the game at a fast pace with pin-point shooting, Leeds netting a 3-pointer within 10 seconds and Liverpool instantly responding with two of their own. The competitiveness you’d expect from a cup tie was apparent, with a Liverpool player being forced off the court with a nasty-looking arm injury after just 3 minutes. Both sides showed this tenacity in a decidedly even start to the match, with Liverpool relying on several inspired individual runs to accumulate 2-pointers. The first quarter ended with the home team leading by the solitary point, emphasising the closeness of the contest.
As they did at the start, Liverpool resumed the game strongly with two quickfire 2-pointers, and although Leeds levelled the score at 22-22, this set the tone for a dominant quarter for the boys. Inspired by the direct, purposeful dribbling of Jay Papaioannou Turner, Liverpool opened up a 7-point lead and only grew in confidence, starting to control the tempo of the game and retaining possession around the Leeds 3-point line. A further two solo efforts from Turner rounded off an emphatic period for Liverpool, who led 41-26 at half-time.
That second quarter would prove to be vital in Liverpool’s success, as the third returned to a more equal encounter that was arguably edged by Leeds. It was the turn of Ter-er Orkar to step up, with the No. 14 producing a succession of crowd-pleasing shots after some fantastic footwork and dribbling. However, both Orkar and Kyle Gethings only managed to convert 1 of their 4 combined free shots, and these opportunities were few and far between with Liverpool forced into producing some strong defence with a series of important blocks.
Although Liverpool still held a 12-point advantage heading into the final quarter, this lead was soon dented as Leeds posted multiple 2-pointers on the scoreboard after multiple breakaways from their own half. Tempers began to flare as the match grew increasingly intense, with Liverpool’s Daniel Allison gifting Leeds 3 free shots after a confrontation. With the gap down to 3 points, Orkar’s passing and ball retention were desperately needed, with the crowd willing on the team with chants to grind out the win. A final free shot proved invaluable, as Leeds had the opportunity to win the match with the last play, but the 3-point effort scraped the backboard and flew wide.
The hard-earned win for Liverpool will give the team further optimism to take into their league season, where they currently sit 2nd. Awaiting them in the next round of the Northern Conference Cup will be University of Sheffield 1st Team in two weeks’ time. Elsewhere, the Women’s 2nd Team were also in cup action, but were heavily beaten away in Sheffield.