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Lancaster University Men’s Basketball team faced a tricky fixture in their Northern Conference 2A league match. Their opposition, Manchester Metropolitan 1st team, not only sat top of the table but knocked Lancaster out of the BUCS cup quarter finals the week earlier. A spot of retribution for the home side would sweeten any bitter aftertaste of the cup and place them in a position to challenge for the league title.
The first quarter was no indication as to which way the game would go, with both teams starting brightly and matching each other point for point. Lancaster’s Karl Viilver looked threatening outside the key, raining in a barrage of three point attempts during the early exchanges. Yet it was the defences who were coming out on top, keeping the score down with the game very much open. Lancaster looked to be finishing the first quarter marginally ahead, until a foul gave the visitors an opportunity to take the lead from the free throw line with only seconds to spare. Having sunk the first throw the ill judged second attempt meant that the teams went to the break all even at 10-10.
Lancaster soon got into their stride in the second quarter, where they really began to control the pace and rhythm of the game. Jason Uresti emerged as a player with real class. He controlled the play all round the court, scored points and got assists whilst appearing to have all the time and space that only those athletes on top of their game seem able to create for themselves. It was the home sides’ ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over that placed them in the driving seat. Constantly adding two pointers, and the not-so-occasional three pointers, Lancaster started to pull away, whilst at the other end a dismal display of finishing saw Manchester only score three points in eigth minutes. A brief flurry of points for the away team towards the end of the first quarter saw the teams end the half 37-21 to Lancaster.
It was hard to see how the visitors would be able to get back into the game if Lancaster continued to play such composed basketball. The third quarter passed with little damage done to Lancaster’s comfortable lead, in part due to a blunt Manchester attack but mainly owing to an immaculately tight home defence. Captain Charalambos Hadjitheodosiou dominated the defensive board, being first to latch on to any stray rebounds and unleashing expansive counter attacking plays from deep within the Lancaster half. One would be excused for believing this match was all but over as Lancaster finished the third 59-30 ahead.
The start of the fourth quarter saw Manchester score a succession of early baskets as they looked to minimize the deficit. It was the referee however that posed the greatest opposition to the visitors in the final period, losing track of the score and missing off two of Manchester’s points. This erroneous emission directed the verbal tirade of the visiting coach away from his team, and allowed him chance to exhibit his full repertoire of emotion, shifting seamlessly between rage and fury as he addressed the officials. With the score corrected the game got underway again, where the visitors continued to pick away at the Lancaster lead. Despite the final onslaught the home team’s early dominance had given them an unassailable lead that, when the clock finally ran out, saw Lancaster win 70 points to 56.
Speaking after the game Lancaster’s coach Konstantinos Artonis accurately summed up his teams performance: “We showed tonight what we excel at. We established our own rhythm, made good use of our speed and skill, and maintained our composure. We need to keep in mind that we conceded heavily late on and, had it not been for our shooting ability earlier on, this could have cost us.”