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Oh so close, but not quite.
That was the almost deafening message coming out of the Ashburton College boys’ basketball team following their agonising 92-91 defeat at the hands of St Andrew’s College this week in Thomson Trophy action.
Heading to the match in Christchurch, College knew they were in for a tough battle with STAC, having won their last three games and looking strong.
But it was the visitors who made all the early play, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before their hosts even had a chance to get warm.
A reset through a time-out changed things up and STAC found their feet, and managed to walk into the end of the first quarter with a 31-18 lead.
The second quarter was just as tight, with College providing some really good ball to keep in touch, and the Ashburton boys trailed 43-36 at halftime.
STAC took the game by the horns heading into the early stages of the third quarter, and were able to string together some really strong plays which pushed their lead out to 18 points.
But again, College fought back, tightening up their defensive end while scoring some valuable baskets to claw the margin back to 13 at the end of the third.
Heading into the final quarter, College were still very much in the match, but the first stages of the quarter left College with no answers as STAC held strong.
A time-out which saw College shift to a full court press with the emphasis on stopping the ball from moving forward changed the course of the game.
STAC began to panic, and plenty of turnovers started to flow towards College and they worked back into the match, and they hit the lead 91-89 with a minute left to play.
Shortly after, STAC broke through the press and drove to the basket to score and bring the scores back to level, and suddenly the match became about who could hold their nerve best.
A Riley Sa three-point effort went close but missed, and STAC marched up the court, earning a foul and a trip to the free-throw line.
The first one dropped, but the second missed and the ball bounced out but wasn’t claimed.
A STAC player managed to get a hand on it and it bounced off a College player to go out of court, and hand vital possession back to the hosts.
Kambell Still managed to turn the ball over however, and College were in with a sniff.
Charging up the court they piled on the pressure, only for STAC to hold steady.
Another shot went up but missed, and with a split second left a lunge to the ball again and an attempt to tip the ball in on the rebound just missed, with the buzzer sounding and STAC claiming the match by a one-point margin.
Sa put in a massive performance again at both ends of the court, picking up a huge 42 points, including a 13-point effort in the fourth quarter.
Still chipped in with a solid 15 points, while James Reid had a strong game with 11 points.
Brian Kerr said the whole team impressed.
“All of the guys that got time on the court well and truly put their hands up, whether it was defensively or dropping the odd basket or both.
“It was a wonderful team effort,” he said.
“The fourth quarter fightback was indicative of the defensive intensity applied throughout the game.
“There were times it looked like a blowout was on the cards, but they showed enormous fight and should walk away with heads held high.”
Despite the loss, Kerr described their performance as the best of the season.
© The Ashburton Guardian - 1 August 2020
He had a challenge in front of him, but Johnny Morrison was up to the task.
Heading down to Invercargill yesterday morning, Morrison knew his job, the hard part was always going to be achieving it.
He’d watched Dylan Ferguson drive a winner on Wednesday night at Alexandra Park to draw level with him on the New Zealand Junior Drivers’ premiership.
It meant, drive a winner yesterday, or face heading to Addington tonight, needing a win with two rough chances.
The day didn’t start too well.
Two unplaced runs in the first two races, before he looked home on Rydgemont Milly only for the horse on the inside to boot back up and beat him.
Then he gave Racing Minister every possible opportunity, only for it to find nothing in the straight.
At that point that task looked tough, but a peach of a steer on Miss Impression late in the day saw Morrison salute and move one clear of Ferguson with 34 wins for the season.
There’s still racing at Addington tonight to come, but Ferguson is done for the season, and Ben Hope, who is on 30 winners for the term, would need to drive four winners tonight just to draw level, while Sheree Tomlinson would need to pick up an unlikely five wins.
So, Morrison – barring a miracle is home, and can reasonably safely lay claim to his second New Zealand title.
© The Ashburton Guardian - 30 July 2020
There is a sense of renewed belief among the Mid Canterbury Combined group after they gutsed their way to their first season win at the weekend.
A 14-man Combined pulled off a thrilling last-gasp 13-12 away win over Roncalli Combined in Timaru on Saturday, following a clutch penalty at the death by Charlie Brown.
Down by two, Combined were awarded an injury-time penalty, and Brown stepped up and slotted the kick five metres in from touch to seal a dramatic one-point win.
The moment was caught on video and shared on the Mount Hutt College Facebook page yesterday.
Combined were forced to play the majority of the encounter a man down after one of their players copped a red card after 10 minutes.
Despite this, Combined were full of running in the first half as a handful of chances went begging, and they had two five pointers disallowed in the second spell.
“We were a bit unlucky,” head coach Shane Enright said.
“I think we had a bit of white line fever in the first half.”
The Mid Cantabrians would eventually cross the chalk with loose forward Ben Middleton dotting down.
The team have had plenty of challenges thrust upon them throughout this campaign, including injuries and the side’s relative inexperience.
Enright hoped the squad’s confidence and belief had been replenished now they had tasted victory in the campaign.
“By getting that W, hopefully that’s going to give a bit more belief,” he said.
Combined have been bolstered by the return of some of its key players from injury-related layoffs, including Sam Ree and Christian Thompson.
Enright confirmed star recruit Michael Hennings was to make his long-awaited comeback this weekend for Combined from the bench.
He said his return to the field could be a significant turning point, with some daunting clashes ahead.
“It’s a huge boost from the Fijian boy,” he said.
“We just have to be smart over the next seven weeks by giving those players a chance who haven’t had a lot of game time.”
Mid Canterbury is on the road again this weekend where they face St Thomas’ in Christchurch, a team sitting ninth on the ladder.
Combined’s next home game is in three weeks time where they take on current pacemakers St Andrew’s on August 15.
By Adam Burns © The Ashburton Guardian - 27 July 2020