The Manchester Giants have their BBL season ended at the hands of the Bristol Flyers, losing 94-80. 

After a quick and energetic open possession from the Flyers, the Giants replied straight away as Martaveous McKnight tipped off tonight’s game with a three ball from the elbow, this was shortly followed up by Tyrik Armstrong with a deep three ball of his own. The threes were flying tonight on the Giants offence shooting 4/6 from beyond the line midway through the opening quarter. The Giants kept it a closely contested affair all quarter not letting the Flyers get far ahead despite potential early foul troubles as the Giants committed 6 fouls in the opening quarter. A close and physical quarter from both teams to end the first quarter as both teams end the first quarter with Bristol up 26-24 as they head into the second quarter. Bristol trail by 10 points on aggregate.  

A great showing of speed and agility from Tyrik Armstrong allowed him to get close and covertedon the tough layup and tie the game. A quiet period coupled with a handful of turnovers sees the Giants trail by 8 and have an incredibly slender Aggregate lead midway through the 2nd quarter. A nerve-racking second quarter saw the aggregate lead reduced to nothing and then reinstated from a backdoor cut by Jamell Anderson which saw him wide open for a layup. The constant trips to the foul line in favour of the Flyers proved to be an achilles heel for Manchester tonight as they sent their opponents to the charity stripe 13 times where they converted 11 at the half. Manchester have managed to hit back and salvage parts of their aggregate lead in the latter stages of the quarter, managing to scrape back  points of their 12 point advantage after a Flyers three ball at the buzzer. The Giants are up by 3 on aggregate but the Flyers up by 9 in the game. 

The Giants aggregate lead remained in jeopardy in the 3rd quarter as Manchester just about kept their heads above water in the early stages through makes by Geno Artison and Tyrik Amrstrong. The Giants began to tick over on offence in this third quarter outscoring the Flyers 13-7 with just under 5 minutes left and with further opportunity to extend their aggregate lead back out to double digits. The Flyers tried to gain traction on the offensive side of the ball only to be met at the rim by Jamell Anderson who rejected the Flyers efforts. The Flyers inevitably gained momentum going on a 13-5 point run to once again shorten the gap between both teams. The 4th quarter loomed and the Flyers were only down by 2 points on aggregate. 

Jamell Anderson and Martaveous McKnight combined on the pick and roll to keep the Giants’ aggregate hopes alive as the 4th quarter got underway. Josh Steel converted and a David Ulph putback later on in the quarter helped aid the aggregate score. The Giants slowed down their tempo as they looked to chew the clock as they outscored the Bristol Flyers 12-7 at the midway point and held them to multiple minutes without a single basket in what turned out to be a dry spell for both teams. Both teams traded baskets as they neared the business end of the game, the aggregate lead rarely budging. This was until the final few seconds where tensions began to rise and Mike Miller of the Bristol Flyers hit a turn around midrange to put the Flyers up by two on aggregate. The Giants had one more opportunity through Tyrik Armstrong who was rejected by Flyers big man Malcolm Delpeche at the rim. 

Despite the heartbreaking loss the performances were exceptional, especially from Martaveous McKnight who led the Giants in scoring tonight with 30 points on 9-20 from the field and also picked up 4 steals. Tyrik Armstrong had a strong outing too on 11 points with 7 assists as he dictated the tempo on offence. Geno Artison finished on a very strong 14 points tonight hitting 50% from the field. Josh Steel was also a strong performer tonight with 11 points off the bench on 66% from the field 

Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said:Physical battle, which we kind of knew, Bristol are a great team that don’t die, so yeah frustrating when you get so close, frustrating when you miss out on the playoffs.”

With tonight’s result it means that the Giants season has come to an end. A season that saw the team come on in leaps and bounds from the previous season and even gave the Giants fans playoff basketball for the first time since 2014, the Giants first playoff win and also a major cup final too. A season to remember for sure. 

Words – Michael Blain

Photo – Joel Osborne