Chester remain top of NBL Division 3 after defeating Myerscough, 95-70.
University of Chester v Myerscough College Spinners
Downes Sports Hall – Sunday 19th February 2017
Division 3 North National Basketball League
UoC Basketball’s run towards the Division 3 North Title continued on Sunday as they welcomed the Myerscough College Spinners to the Downes Sports Hall for their third meeting of the season. Myerscough came into the game fresh from their emphatic victory in the U-18 National Cup final the day before, and also won the 2 previous meetings between the sides this season.
For their part, Chester had shown signs of recovering their pre Christmas form in the past few weeks and, despite missing Luke Sharland-Wong again, this time through a stomach bug, were confident of improving on their 13-2 record in the league and staying that game in front of Team Birmingham Elite.
Due to a scheduled reading week at the university, the sports hall was slightly emptier than usual as the teams lined up for Tip Off. UoC’s starting 5 was the settled Gillard, McNutt, Brandreth, Khan and Thomas rotation that we’ve seen recently and, as the game began, this immediately bore fruit with an explosive first quarter performance. After a cagey first couple of minutes where both teams traded baskets, including a couple of 3’s from the Spinners’ Brown, Chester suddenly came to life behind the outside shooting of Brandreth, five 3’s in the first quarter, and the incisive drives of Asim Khan. Coach Wilson was able to give McNutt and Thomas an extended run on the bench with Paul Kelly and James Strong coming in and continuing the strong performance. With the clock ticking down at the end of the first period the home team were in full flow, a trademark drive and layup from Niel Gillard making the score 31-19 with 4 seconds left on the clock but then, as Myerscough looked to inbound quickly to get the shot away, a heads up play by Khan to steal the ball and place the layup in to rapturous applause from the crowd.
The second quarter was a similar affair, Chester really stepped up their efforts on defence and removed any outside threat that the visitors possessed, heeding the repeated offerings of coaches Wilson and Halsall. Their own offense wasn’t as fluid in the second 10 minutes but showed a different side to their play, being able to use their physicality inside and moving the ball for easy layups. Again, the team was rotated nicely with Tom Owen coming into the fray and maintaining the team’s defensive tenacity which will be a huge factor as the season winds down. Myerscough switched their team about as well looking for a change but to little avail, only managing 7 points in the whole quarter. With another strong end to the period Chester went into the half time break with a 54-26 lead.
Despite repeated warnings about the threat of the opposition, and their ability to get hot, UoC struggled at the start of the 3rd quarter as Spinners Coach Culley through a zone defence into proceedings. This, coupled with some excellent outside shooting from Sirmbardis and Roberts, cut the deficit to as low as 15, down from 28 at the half. Chester really needed the experience of McNutt and Kelly on the court and it was those two that worked to break the press and reel that quarter score back in. Brandreth was again a big factor with another couple of 3’s to effectively kill the game as a contest. Asim Khan had already had an efficient game on the wing but started to threaten from beyond the arc in the second half, eventually finishing with a 100% accuracy rate from 3, hitting 4 of 4. All this led to a 76-52 score line going into the final quarter, and Chester looking good to break the hoodoo the Spinners’ have had over them this year.
A common theme over the past few seasons has been that, when leading handily, UoC’s 4th quarters can become a bit sloppy and disjointed, and this pattern was repeated again here. There was nothing too egregious but the coaching staff will certainly be looking to iron a few things out for the final few games of the season. A big plus point was the performances of Strong and Kelly in the final stages. Both players mopping up rebounds and doing the dirty work inside as the game wound down. This was an unusually quiet game for the talismanic guard, Gillard who, after the game was perturbed at his own performance, missing a number of layups in the second half that he would normally make in his sleep, despite this, he still weighed in with 10 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
As time ran out on the game UoC were able to maintain their lead at the top of the division, pushing their record to 14-2 and maintaining their lead over Team Birmingham Elite with 4 games left to play.
Top scorers for Chester were Phil Brandreth with 28 points, including 7, 3’s, and Asim Khan with 27. This a really good representation of how Chester 2 starting Wings have figured out a way to work in tandem and put up big numbers.
UoC now face a trip to Mansfield Giants on Saturday 25th February, before returning to Chester for their penultimate regular season home game against Sheffield Hallam Sharks II on the 5th March.