Despite another defeat, the Manchester Giants can hold their heads high as they battled until the very end in a narrow 90-87 loss to the table-topping Leicester Riders.
The Giants’ already uphill task of taking down the league’s best side was made even more difficult before the tip as MVP candidate Geno Crandall was passed fit to play, although his minutes were limited as he came off the bench. The two sides jostled for control early on as they traded baskets (and the lead) in a frenetic first 20 minutes which saw Leicester go in at half time up 44-41.
After multiple games where Manchester fell apart in the third quarter, they were able to hold firm and keep themselves in the game, thanks mostly to an unbelievable scoring performance by Justin Satchell. The big forward gave his best performance in a Giants jersey as he finished with a staggering 36 points and 9 rebounds which gave him a player index of 40 – the joint highest of any player in the BBL this season (Breaon Brady and Ronald Delph being the others). His tally of 36 is also the third highest by a Giants player since our return to the league in 2012, behind Mike McCall’s 50-pointer and David Alui’s 38. Despite his incredible scoring and shooting (81% overall), the Giants just couldn’t overcome the depth and ability in the Riders team as the visitors kept the scoreboard ticking over in the final quarter.
Alex Ouandie continued his recent productivity from the bench with 15pts, including 11 in the final quarter alone which kept the game interesting until the very end. Jordan Whelan also provided 18pts and 5 rebs as he showed great desire after missing some open shots, and David Ulph provided a masterclass on the boards with 15 rebounds, although it’s a rarity when he doesn’t.
As for the Riders, William Lee led the way with 19pts (including 3 huge posterising dunks) as well as 9 rebounds, and Darien Nelson-Henry finished with a double-double (18pts, 10rebs) as Rob Paternostro’s men increased their lead at the top. There was also a lovely moment for Mo Walker, who scored his first BBL points in two years after a series of serious injuries.
‘’Frustrating aswell as good. We performed better and we performed for 40 minutes. I thought a lot of the positives were caused by us rather than Leicester not playing their best.’’ Said Head Coach Lloyd Gardner
After an agonising yet encouraging loss, coach Gardner’s men travel to Newcastle next Friday before a home game against the Sheffield Sharks on Sunday.
Words – Jordan Morris
Photo – Harry Collins