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There was a huge turnout for what was expected to be a fiercely contested game between local rivals Lancaster and the University of Cumbria. The anticipant spectators were not disappointed as Lancaster came out on top in the derby and progressed through to the next round of the Men’s Northern Conference Cup.
Lancaster opened the scoring in a fashion in-fitting with the pattern of the game. Team captain Pambos Hadjitheodosiou won a foul and impressively scored three free throws to get the home side off and running. This was followed by a superb three pointer from Chris Hodkin and Lancaster were off to a flying start. The opening period was undoubtedly competitive, with the officials showing their intent of taking a firm approach on the game by calling 7 fouls in just over 2 minutes.
Hadjitheodosiou showed yet more of his clinical finishing, scoring a three pointer and dispatching another free throw to put Lancaster 12-0 up. The officials continued to keep a tight grip on the game, awarding somewhat disputable fouls against Lancaster; however Cumbria’s wasteful finishing from free throw situations kept Lancaster in the ascendency. Point guard Constandinos Christofi was the architect of the home side’s attacking play, setting up chances for centre James Ormond and scoring himself.
Cumbria showed their resilience by reducing the deficit to 18-11, however Lancaster responded to this by demonstrating their long-range shooting ability in exquisite style with yet another three pointer scored by point guard Leon Francotte. Cumbria again clawed their way back into the match; Lancaster re-established their superiority with a quality finish from James Dunne to put the team 23-15 up.
The match came to the boil in the second period, both on and off the court. Lancaster’s attacking ambition showed no boundaries as they stormed further ahead with a series of three pointers, from Craig Cefferty and Dimitris Karakasis. Hadjitheodosiou was central to Lancaster’s prowess, linking up fantastically well with Chris Hodkin; he and the home side were in complete control.
The referee kept a tight hold on the game, repeatedly penalising both teams for even the most minimal contact. However, there was no doubting the physicality of this fiercely fought derby, illustrated when Karakasis- a standout attacking player in this period- scored a three pointer and won the foul after being clattered into by the Cumbria guard. He dusted himself down and scored the free throw to put Lancaster in a respectable lead of 42-20.
The contest never ceased to be without controversy, Leon Francotte and several other Lancaster players showing disagreement at fouls given against them. This disillusionment with the officials reached the point where the home manager was out on the court remonstrating with them at the interval.
With the score at 50-28 to Lancaster going into the third period, it was a case of how many as far as the eventual result was concerned. An amazing overhead shot by Max Jaconvella got them off and running, before Chris Hodkin chipped in with a couple to send Lancaster into an unassailable lead. The Lancaster players’ frustrations with the officials had become almost a comical topic, centre Karl Viilver collapsing to the floor in disbelief after a decision was given against him, resulting in quiet hysterics from manager and players alike.
Francotte, Karakasis and Hodkin kept up the frenzy of three pointers from Lancaster as they used their long-range accuracy to kill off their opponents. At 71-33, it was clear that that the margin between the two teams had considerably widened. Credit must be given to Lancaster for not resting on their laurels and extending their advantage through efficiency and good teamwork.
In the final period, Cumbria showed glimpses of their individual talent and spirited determination in spite of the score line. A storming run and basket from their forward and some neat interplay brought it back to 71-39. This comeback was short-lived once Hadjitheodosiou’s ability to single-handedly influence a game came to the forefront. His bursting runs, ability to evade challenges and finish in style capped a superb individual display. Ormond with two points again and a couple of free throws from Francotte rounded off a measurably controlled and professional performance from Lancaster, who won the game 89-41.
Captain Hadjitheodosiou commented that “It was a hard game, but the good effort of the players made it a simple task. Everyone gave 100%”. On the hot subject of the referee’s decisions, he claimed “it was the first time I have seen this many unnecessary fouls given in a game. It’s a semi-contact sport, so he should’ve let the game flow”. He finished by promising the fans that “We’ll do the best we can in every match this season” and that he hoped they can go all the way in the cup this season. With a performance like this, who could bet against them?