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On Saturday, the U16s made the long trip down to the Midlands to play City of Birmingham (COB) at the Nechells Leisure Centre. The previous meeting between the two teams saw the Eagles lose by 43 points in a very one-sided contest. The Eagles were however coming off a good home win against Manchester Giants and felt they were capable of competing a lot better this time around. With the away team arriving in Birmingham in good time the players had an extensive warm-up which appeared to focus the away side and ensure they started the game with real commitment and energy.
The first quarter was very tight as both teams struggled to put any kind of run together. The Eagles were showing lots of positive signs on offence and good team basketball led to them scoring 19 points in the quarter. Sadly some lapses in transition defence allowed COB to get some cheap scores and this coupled with some good shooting from midrange had the score at 20-19 in favour of the hosts, after the first 10 minutes.
The Eagles started the second quarter brightly, going on an 8-2 run and taking the lead after just 3 minutes (22-27). COB would however respond with a 9-0 run of their own, wrestling back the lead from the visitors with 2 minutes remaining in the quarter. The teams would then trade baskets before back to back scores for the Eagles closed the home side’s lead to just four points at the interval (40-36).
The halftime break allowed the Eagles to regroup and revise their game plan. The away side knew they were competing well but needed to be more assertive on the defensive end if they were going to come out winners and take a W that on paper didn’t seem possible.
A lay-up for Kusi, just after the break, got the visitors off to a good start, immediately cutting the hosts lead to just 2 points. The home side were not however in any mood to relinquish their lead, going on an 18-9 run and stretching their advantage to 12 points with 2 minutes to play in the quarter. The perimeter shots were now starting to drop for the hosts and this coupled with some good interior play from the forwards was presenting a real challenge for the Eagles. The away side would however manage to reduce the lead after scores for Swann and Evboumwan cut the deficit to 7 before a layup at the death saw the hosts lead climb back to 9 points (65-56) with one quarter to go.
Despite the deficit the Eagles knew they could get back into the game if they stuck to the game plan and shared the ball on the offensive end. The away side started the final quarter all guns blazing. Going on a 14-3 run and re-taking the lead with 3 minutes gone (68-73). COB took a timeout and immediately hit back after play resumed – with an offensive rebound leading to an easy put back. The hosts would continue to work hard in the paint and after a couple of inside finishes the score was tied at 73 all with 3 minutes to play. This is where the Eagles would make the decisive run. Back to back 3’s from Wilson and Evbouman would put the away team up 6 – quickly followed by a good inside finish from Ridley. Again, COB would take a timeout and again they responded well with a quick layup followed by a big three from Gordon. The Eagles were up by 3 with 40 seconds left. Wilson was then fouled making 1 of his 2 from the line to make it a two-possession game. With all 5 guys locked in on defence late on the hosts wouldn’t find another shot and after 3 big blocks from Evboumwan, Ridley and Payling the buzzer sounded and the Eagles came out victors 78-82!
Credit must go to the hosts who played some great basketball at times but the day was most certainly the Eagles. The players put together what was easily their best 40 minutes of basketball and with everyone getting on the score sheet it was nearly a perfect outing from the visitors!
The Eagles have a weekend off next week before another tough away trip to the North West to play the league leaders Manchester Magic.
Scorers: Evboumwan 28, Wilson 10, Kande 10, Ridley 8, Swann 8, Proctor 7, Payling 6, Kusi 3, Burns 2.
Click on the result for full match report