The Manchester Giants take the first leg in the first set of playoff fixtures, They beat the 4th seed  Bristol Flyers 91-79. 

Playoff basketball has arrived in the BBL and the 5th seed Manchester Giants took on the 4th seed Bristol Flyers in what was certain to be a game to remember. 

Geno Artison crashed the boards on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in the opening minute to get this playoff leg underway. Tyrik Armstrong builds on a good start from the Giants with a tough layup followed by a pair of makes from the line for an early lead. Geno Artison follows up Armstrong with a three from the right elbow. When it rains it pours as Martaveous McKnight converts from beyond the line with a three of his own and even with a hand in his face. The Giants continued to build a strong 11 point lead for this quarter, with 3 minutes to go however Bristol started to look dangerous, sinking back to back threes. David Ulph came on and responded in the way he knows how, high screen for the guard and cut to the inside for the close make to ease Giants fans nerves. Those nerves returned with 0.8 seconds left in the quarter as Flyers forward Josh Rogers went to the line for 3. Fortunately he only made one which made the score 26-21 in favour of the Giants. 

First offensive possession and the Giants picked up where they left off at the interval highlighted with a Will Saunders three from the left elbow. Followed up with a fadeaway mid-range jumper from Martaveous McKnight that was nothing but net. Despite the heavy Bristol offence, Manchester continued to weather the storm midway through the 2nd quarter and kept a healthy lead intact. Both teams began to trade basket after basket. Despite the constant trading, the Giants looked to pull away through continuous fast breaks catching Bristol off guard. That lack of defence from the southern side caused a 9 point lead to be extended to a 15 point lead. A strong first 2 quarters from the Giants took them into the break up 54-41 The Giants were however down a man through an injury to GB Captain Dan Clark. 

The early third quarter was the Geno Artison show, converting not only a three but a tough layup and then goes to the line to make the and one all in the space of 2 minutes to give Giants a 19 point lead. A quiet scoring period followed for both teams, once that period of play was finished, David Ulph began to go on a storming offensive run, basket after basket as he showed an elegant touch around the hoop taking him to 14 points as of the third quarter. End to end basketball as the 3rd quarter drew to a close with it being a physical quarter all the way through. With seconds left and the clock winding down, Tyrik Armstrong drives to the right looking for an opening just to pass the ball behind his back to Jordan Whelan who lets fly from 3 for nothing but net. The Giants entered the final quarter up 75-61. 

A controversial start to the final quarter as Kingsley Kwagboso takes the charge and yet has the foul called against him despite contact. Nevertheless, Manchester didn’t let it affect them as Josh Steel converted a tough layup against the Bristol big men to get the Giants cooking once more. Manchester continued to go from strength to strength in this final quarter with Martaveous McKnight going on a tear offensively, everything he touched for a 2 minute period seemingly turned to gold and gave the team an 18 point lead. Another quiet scoring period followed for the Giants, focusing solely on their defence to aid them in this game. This was until Air Artison took flight late in the 4th which sent the National Basketball Performance Centre into euphoria. Another midrange from Agent 0 with 2.6 seconds left rounded off a spectacular Giants performance. 

Martaveous McKnight was lights out tonight from the field, 22 points and also grabbed 4 steals on the defensive end. Tyrik Armstrong controlled the offence tonight notching up a double double of 15 points and 12 assists tonight. David Ulph also managed to get big minutes tonight as repaid big time with 14 points and 7 rebounds of his own. 

Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said ” Really pleased, great physical effort from the players, it’s always a battle against Bristol, we knew that coming in. We competed on every possession which was big for us, using our strength and depth. Really proud of how our guys came in and contributed throughout the roster. I’m delighted to get a win, still with the mindset of its half a job done at the moment”.

Next game for the Manchester Giants see them take an away trip to Bristol for the reverse fixture. Manchester/Bristol currently lead this tie so it should be a spectacle. Tip off is Saturday 30th April at 7:30pm and will be available to view on BBL Player. 

Words – Michael Blain

Photo – All Sports Photography