The first semi-final of the Fun Cup gave the lower ranked PokerStars a 50-point head start against their rivals Warriors at the National Sports Centre on Thursday.
With their previous league meeting resulting in Warriors eking out a slender eight-point lead, this looked like a difficult mountain to climb.
However, nobody told Warriors this and they raced out of the blocks to dominate the first quarter 31-14 in real terms on the back of some strong shooting from Chris Wolfendale and Steve Christian.
PokerStars were missing star guard Fred Roman and the formidable Eric Hibbs inside so the load was being carried by Shaun McCurry who scored all but two of their baskets in the first half. However, his one-man show wasn’t enough to stem the tide that let Warriors close the gap to 12 points at the break.
Christian took full advantage of the lack of PokerStars height in the third to give the Warriors the lead by the end of quarter and, from then on, it was a comfortable run out as they broke the 100-point barrier to take an impressive win. McCurry scored a team high 24 of his team’s 32 total points but couldn’t do it by himself.
Warriors victory was only marred by a broken ankle to MVP candidate Wayne Mears early on which will hurt the Warriors at a critical league time.
Phillies 74 (+20),
Ron Smith’s Turkeys 52
These two teams have one win each against each other in the league this season so a handicap of +20 to the Phillies might have seem generous but not insurmountable for a veteran Turkeys team which was lead by the age-defying Wig Bregazzi who is enjoying a renaissance season.
However, with Turkeys needing to to claw back the lead bit by bit, they edged a first quarter which set them on the right path. Phillies are a streaky shooting team, though, and their dazzling guard combo of Luke Genenza and former MVP Raj Mallorca shot the lights out in the second to grab that advantage back and extend out their original lead to 26 points by the half.
Turkeys were always chasing the game from then on and, despite some fine offensive finishing from Gavin Stephenson, they couldn’t put a dent in the gap and Phillies wisely ran the clock down to take the win and go marching into the final to meet the Warriors.
Timbermann Tigers 77,
Manx Demolition 38
Winless in the league so far, Manx Demolition put in arguably their best performance of the season to give Tigers a fright in a first half that saw MD match their opponents to leave a tied game at the break.
Only the clutch play of Svetlin Krastev kept the reeling Tigers in the game at all and, for a while, the spectators could smell a serious upset. All that hope went away in a devastating performance at both ends of the floor in the third quarter which saw Tigers outscore the upstarts 29-5.
Nerves settled and they put in another good shift in the fourth period to run out comfortable winners, although slightly fortunate that MD didn’t capitalise on their amazing first half performance.
Junior West 52, Junior South 34
This game in the Junior League saw the West emerge triumphant thanks to some great play from Fred Atherton and Chris Hastie and, although South put up plenty of resistance through Jacob Glover and Tom Dalton-Brown, the West were just too strong on the night.