University of Chester left it late in a hotly contested National Shield Final before pulling away down the stretch for an 88-83 win.
With BC Medelynas leading by as many as eight points in the game’s final quarter, Chester went on a tear in the final five minutes to win by a comfortable margin after holding their nerve at the free-throw line.
MVP Honours went to Chester’s Phil Brandreth as he scored a team high 23 points to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The early going largely belonged to the London side as Mantas Guzys (30 points, seven rebounds) took over for Medelynas, scoring 13 of his side’s 24 points in the opening frame. Chester’s Niel Gillard (13 points, eight assists, five rebounds) helped to keep the game close, frequently driving into the lane to attack the basket or create opportunities for others. With Phil Kelly (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists) knocking down one of those openings as the quarter drew to a close, Medelynas would lead by just three at 24-21 as the 2nd frame began.
As the game’s intensity continued to rise, so did the foul count. The 2nd quarter was punctuated by moments of quality as well as multiple infractions, the main factor that prevented the Final from really coming to life. Still, with the stakes high and neither team willing to give an inch it was inevitable that both teams would be playing right on the edge of foul and fair. Further baskets from Guzys and 10 points in the quarter from Modestas Paulauskas (14 points, six rebounds) threatened to break the game open for Medelynas but Chester wouldn’t budge. Both Gillard and Brandreth continued to be a thorn in their opponent’s side and eventually helped the University outfit to grab a one-point lead right before the half. Medelynas would have the last laugh before the buzzer though, sinking a basket of their own to head to the half up 42-41.
As the score tightened up, the tension on court began to rise. With the game tied at 48, Gillard was handed a technical for his complaints to a foul call, and following the free throw, Medelynas knocked down a three-pointer that threatened to swing momentum in their favour once again. But as had so frequently been the case, Chester would not go away, finding ways to hit the key baskets and stay in touch. Neither side managed to establish a double digit lead during the Final, a testament to how evenly matched these two sides really were.
Timely scores from Medelynas, including a deep ball from Guzys, pushed the difference towards 10-points to begin the 4th quarter. From there, the Londoners began to unravel. Guzys picked up a technical for flopping, before a bench technical on the Medelynas coach provided Chester plenty of opportunity to reduce their deficit. They duly obliged, setting up a grand stand finish over the game’s final few minutes.
A 15-3 run down the stretch turned erased Chester’s arrears and turned the game as Medelynas went cold. Even the ever-reliable Guzys couldn’t find the bottom of the basket as the game began to drift away from BC. Max Jones’ (16 points, five rebounds, four assists) 4th three-pointer of the afternoon was the basket that pushed Chester’s noses in front with four minutes remaining but the scores wouldn’t remain that close for long. At 80-80, Reiss Faure-Daley popped up with his first field goal of the game, a huge triple to break the deadlock and ultimately break Medelynas’ resolve. With further trips to the line, including after another T for Medelynas, Chester were able to seal a famous comeback win.
“To win feels absolutely brilliant. I thought we’d lost it at the start of the 4th. We went cold on offence and we couldn’t get the stops we needed but we really came together as a team and showed some great resilience to get the win.”University of Chester Head Coach Chris Wilson
This post was originally posted by Basketball England and can be found at https://www.basketballengland.co.uk/news/university-of-chester-win-the-2019-nbl-national-shield/