University of Chester 1 vs University of Manchester 1
BUCS Northern Conference Cup Semi Final
22 February 2017
Following a comprehensive win over LJMU in last week’s Quarter Final match up, Chester prepared for their toughest test of the competition so far against division rivals University of Manchester. The teams have already met once this season, a come-from-behind 3 point victory for UoM in a heated affair as both teams continued their push for promotion. Since the December meeting, both teams have gone unbeaten, and will have both seen this competition as a great chance to secure some silverware and attend the prestigious final’s day.
UoC, with 3 starters coming off the back of the weekends big National League win over Myerscough, went with a familiar starting 5 of Niel Gillard, Asim Khan, James Strong, Ethan Wade and Chris Wanford. The familiarity paid dividends for the home side as they raced into an early lead aided by some great outside shooting from Khan and Gillard, and exceptional work inside from Jimmy Strong. The visitors took an early timeout looking to recover after the frantic start had seen them fall behind 10-1. The break did little to change the flow of the game, UoM’s guards did start to penetrate Chester’s perimeter defence but, at the other end, UoC were nigh on unstoppable at times. They ended the first quarter with a 24-11 lead, and were clapped back to the bench by the spectators in attendance.
Looking back to the League meeting between the sides earlier in the season, the big turning point came in the 3rd quarter when the Manchester defence switched from man to zone, a sign of Chester’s dominance in the first stanza was that the visiting coach saw fit to throw his zone on as the second quarter began. In a quirk of fate, UoC’s National League team had faced this exact scenario in the Myerscough game on Sunday so were well versed in how to deal with the zone and, after a couple of missteps early on, gradually changed up their offence and brought their scoring back up. Strong again a huge part of this, mopping up rebounds and working tirelessly in the post. The bench came into play as the half wound down, both Brandon Downie and Adam Rolfe saw minutes and worked tirelessly on defence to keep the lead ticking over. A crucial moment of play at the end of the 2nd quarter, Gillard made a trademark drive to the basket to make a layup with 8 seconds left on the clock, Khan then stole the ball from the UoM guard in Chester territory with 4 seconds remaining, sprinted to the basket for the layup but then, with time expiring, put too much on his layup and the backbreaking opportunity was lost. UoC went into the half though leading 46-28 and having played some of their best basketball of the season.
The malaise that seems to affect both the National League and BUCS teams once again took hold as the third quarter began. There’s no getting away from the fact that UoM are a very good team and they began to show it in the second half of this game, Ed Potter at the heart of most of the good things his side did, getting his mid-range jumper going as the game wore on. Chester battled to prevent the visitors from clawing back the deficit, James Strong coming to the fore as the outside game began to fade and shots stopped dropping. All the noise was now coming from the visitors’ bench as they tried to get some form of run going but Chester stayed strong and kept plugging away and kept them in check, eventually finishing the quarter up 62-48 and with the final in sight.
Going into the fourth quarter the game pretty much continued in the same vein as the third quarter, desperate defence from Chester as Manchester threw everything at them to overturn the deficit. By now UoM had switched back to a Man defence but were then having problems containing the effervescent Gillard, Khan and Strong on offence. Slowly but surely the visitors plugged away at the lead, mainly behind some big 3 point shots down the stretch. With 90 seconds left on the clock, and Chester leading by 12, Manchester were left with no choice but to start putting Chester on the foul line in the hope of getting the ball back on offence and making some big plays, both Khan and Strong were sent to the line with mixed success but UoM weren’t capitalising at the other end, turning the ball over on consecutive possessions as time ebbed away. The deficit was as low as 7 after a huge three from one of UoM’s twin guards but, with 3 seconds on the clock, Niel Gillard broke free from the high press of Manchester and made the game sealing layup as the clock ran out, final score University of Chester 82 – 73 University of Manchester.
James Strong put a fantastic performance in, finishing with 33 points, followed by Niel Gillard with 25 and Asim Khan with 15. Chester will now face University of Lancaster in the final which will be held in York on the 8th March. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @uocbasketball for information on how to attend the game and for other reports from our Men’s sides.