Birmingham Mets vs University of Chester
NBL Division 3 North
30th September 2017
The University of Chester Mens’ Basketball National League Team kicked off their 2nd Division 3 campaign on Saturday with a trip to an experienced Birmingham Mets team in the second city.
The summer has seen a fair amount of change for the UoC National League side, Asim Khan finished his Masters degree and returned to the US whilst several new faces have arrived during the mid-season break. A familiar face made his debut at the weekend with Guard Danny Walsh signing for the club from Sefton Stars, bringing along with him fellow PG, Joe Evans. After playing multiple seasons at Division 1 level, Connor Murtagh, who is going into his third year of a Sport, Health and Fitness programme at the University has committed to the club and will be a huge signing for both the National League and BUCS sides.
In a demonstration of the programmes increasing pulling power, a further two new faces at the University have also joined the team, Adam Askey-Yourell has begun his studies in Finance at the University having played Div 3 opponents Stoke on Trent Knights and at Newcastle-under-Lyme College in the Academy Basketball League. Joining Adam is Eberehem ‘Dave’ Omole, who joins from Erith School where he captained them in the Southern Conference of the Academy Basketball League Conference. Dave also played for London Thunder in Div 4.
Chester did still, however, make the journey to the Midlands with a depleted team. Team stalwart Niel Gillard is still recovering from an operation and assumed media duties for the day whilst, despite suiting up, Richard McNutt was only a week back into training following his own surgery during the break.
Mets boasted a strong, veteran team, most notably ex BBL player Daniel Belgrave who, as he showed last season in games between the two sides, is lethal when given any semblance of time and space on the floor.
Coach Wilson sent a strong, but untried 5 out onto the floor, Danny Walsh made his debut at guard, Dave Thomas, Phil Brandreth, James Strong and Connor Murtagh completed the line-up. The home side got off to a strong start, seemingly hitting every shot they took with Belgrave and Kanyinda getting in on the action. Chester were struggling to contain the home side but were getting good looks themselves with Murtagh making a strong start to his career in the red of Chester. Time and again, however, UoC failed to stop the Mets and, with a late flurry of points, the home side ended the quarter up 8 with a 30-22 lead.
The message at the break was clear, Chester could not continue to defend the way they had started. The visitors freshened up the line up with Evans and Omole coming on for their debuts. With the coaches’ words ringing in their ears Chester did manage to tighten up somewhat in the 2nd quarter. They were still, however, soft inside and Birmingham continued to win the battle on the boards. UoC actually managed to closed the score to as little as 4 in this period but, after all the hard work in getting back, they let the lead widen again and, after a disastrous final minute, Birmingham went into half time with a well-deserved 9 point lead, 47 – 38.
With McNutt still in mothballs on the bench, Chester began the third stanza in need of something of a comeback. The starting 5 returned to the floor and, although they slowed the home team offense right down, they were again struggling to get anything of their own going. Tom Owen was struggling with a cold and was in and out of the game as the team tried in vain to change their game. With 6 minutes left of the quarter the decision was made to bring big man McNutt into the game. The change had almost instant benefit with the defence instantly tightening even further and more cohesion on the offensive side of the game. Jimmy Strong had played an excellent game throughout and, with McNutt on the floor to take even more attention, he continued to crash the boards and pick up points.
By the end of the 3rd the lead was down to 6 points with the score at 61-55. The 4th quarter was vintage Chester, with the deficit being whittled down with miserly defence and smart structured offence. Again, a lot of this fed through McNutt who, despite not scoring a point, gelled the team on both ends of the floor and frustrated the Mets as the middle was now locked down. With 4 minutes left on the clock the lead stood at just 1, and with the home team in their sights, UoC weren’t about to let the opportunity slip. 30 seconds later and Chester were ahead. Newcomer, Dave Omole had a huge impact off the bench, fighting for every rebound and scoring valuable points. Askey – Yourell also gave a glimpse of what is to come with an effervescent showing on defence.
In what has become something of a speciality, Chester set about closing the game out, the home side unable to score a point in the final 2 minutes and UoC slowly extending their lead. The dagger came through a corner 3 from Brandreth with 1 minute on the clock. A couple of fouls later and McNutt could run the clock out that saw the away side run out 78-71 winners, taking the final quarter 23-10. Brandreth finished the day with an efficient 26 points whilst Strong chipped in with 16.
The win gives the visitors the perfect start in what has been a difficult summer and broken up pre-season. Next up was the visit of Calderdale Explorers in the National Cup, with the next league game coming on the 7th October against last year’s Div 2 side Doncaster Danum Eagles. Tip is 6pm at the Downes Sports Hall.