Basketball play-off semi-finals take place tonight
Eagles’ Brayden Roche drives to the basket off the screen from team-mate George Dalton-Brown as Wig Bregazzi steps up on defence for Turkeys
Isle of Man Basketball Association’s league season entered its final stages on Thursday as the first round of the play-offs were held on an arena court in the NSC.
The season concludes with a seeded tournament where all teams still have the chance to book a place in the Championship match and potentially win the 2021-22 title.
With seven teams in the Senior League, the top seed Forget Me Not Jets gained an automatic bye to the second round. The remaining teams compete based on their table rankings, winners progressing in the tournament while losers go on to compete for the season plate.
First up on Thursday evening was a disappointing match-up between Eagles and Turkeys. The former’s bench has struggled through absence and injury this season and bad luck struck again as key player Jack Coates rolled an ankle immediately before the game, leaving Eagles with only five players to face a full-strength Turkeys.
Despite that, Eagles managed to stay close for much of the first quarter with Brayden Roche and Jack Elliot leading the scoring.
With a significant boost in numbers Turkeys played their advantage though, playing a fast game that benefitted Wig Bregazzi, David Boyle and Chris Wolfendale while rotating through their bench to keep legs fresh.
A late set of three-point shots from Roche and George Dalton-Brown were a welcome sight for Eagles but at the end of the half Turkeys had a commanding lead 49-26.
The second half played out the same, Turkeys pushing the pace as Eagles struggled to keep up. Tiredness didn’t stop Dalton-Brown sinking threes, nor Ben Smith from making some nice moves around the post and scooping up plenty of defensive boards.
Turkeys continued to pull away, though a change came in the late stages of the fourth quarter. With 88 on the board and five minutes on the clock, they sensed a chance to go for the century.
Eagles saw the same danger though and stepped up for a last push on defence. Cue a frantic five minutes with Eagles keeping Turkeys contained and managing to outscore them two-to-one until the end of the game.
But Turkeys’ lead was still substantial and they progressed to the next round of the championship with a 94-59 win.
Ravens faced Microgaming Cavaliers in the second game of the evening that was marked by a frenetic pace from the Ravens side.
Cavs dominated the opening minutes, with Sergio Arboleya hitting his shots while Dave Minay set up on the inside. Ravens tried to keep the pace high but their speedy transitions were marked with unforced errors and quick turnovers.
Cavaliers were more than happy to capitalise on the shaky Ravens start and consolidate their lead, ending the half in the lead 40-19.
There was better form on show from Ravens in the second half, with a strong opening that saw Vannin Coulter hit a swish three-pointer and Leon Evans sink the free-throws after a foul on the shot.
Better composure on defence stuttered the Cavaliers offence and saw more defence boards and transitions for Ravens.
As the second half proceeded Ravens continued their better showing, with a tighter defence and a more controlled flowing offence that saw them go point-for-point in the third and fourth quarters.
It wasn’t enough to overturn the first half though and Cavaliers booked their spot in the second round with a 57-35 win.
The final game of the evening was a good-spirited match-up between PwC Hoops and Wolves.
Cameron Scott opened the scoring with a strong inside move for Wolves and was soon joined on the scoresheet by Harry Brindle, but the lead was short-lived as Hoops struck back with two quick lay-ups from Lauren Ellison and Becky Dunne.
The teams stayed evenly matched for much of the first quarter, Ross Wilson and Ben Campbell pushing Wolves ahead again while Ellison was joined by Danielle Murphy to draw Hoops level.
A late push in the first saw Wolves break away with a run that was capped by a corner three-pointer from Michael Connolly.
This triggered a run of threes from Wolves, with six three-pointers in the second quarter including a nice swing to rookie Oscar Lace who is fast building a reputation as a solid shooter and top defensive stopper in the Senior League.
Hoops’ offensive movement continued to impress, opening chances for Oksana Fedorovych and Daniela Kravela to capitalise on. There were plenty of other chances too as the well-oiled Hoops offensive machine found chinks in Wolves’ defence.
The arena court rims were particularly harsh though, denying plenty of excellent shots from the Hoops side.
Both teams battled on right to the end, with the final points coming for Scott who hit from the inside in the final seconds to rubberstamp Wolves’ place in the second round, 81-35.
l This Thursday sees the second round of the championship play-offs with four teams in the running for the 2021-22 league title.
First to play at 7pm are league leaders Forget Me Not Jets who will take on Turkeys for a place in the final, then at 8.30pm Wolves will face current title holders Microgaming Cavaliers.
Also at 8.30pm there will be a play-off between PwC Hoops and Ravens, with the winner progressing to the final of the league plate against Eagles.
All games are held in the NSC Main Hall and free seating is available for any spectators who wish to attend.
l The league and plate finals for the 2021-22 season are scheduled for Thursday, April 7 on the arena court in the NSC Main Hall.
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