The Giants snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as they beat the Rocks in the second leg of the BBL Cup semi final and progressed to the finals defeating the Glasgow Rocks 92-79.
The third game in a matter of weeks was played between the Manchester Giants and the Glasgow Rocks this evening in a game that was sink or swim for Manchester who entered this bout needing to win by more than 10 points to progress.
Both teams brought unparalleled levels of intensity to the first quarter as Dan Clark fired from beyond the arc and the Giants hit the ground running but a three from Rocks player coach Gareth Murray answered right back. Tyrik “The Magic Man” Armstrong showed off some of his signature razzle dazzle and hit a quickfire three and heavily contested layup to assert Giant’s dominance on the offensive side of the ball. A mean defensive block from Dan Clark on Ali Fraser showing Glasgow that Manchester were ready to compete all night long. Lloyd Gardner’s men took the first quarter 27-21 with three more quarters left and more time to establish a larger lead.
Extending their lead is exactly what they did as the Giants led by as much as 14 with a Martaveous McKnight three 4 minutes into the quarter. Manchester knew they needed points and were utilising their three point shooters all throughout the first half shooting 9/12 from beyond the arc looking to bring that lead to over 11 and secure their spot in the final. The first half goes to Manchester as they entered the break up 52-43.
The second half picked up right where the first left off, a mirrored opening for Manchester as Josh Steel this time opened the scoring with a corner three, found by Tyrik Armstrong in the corner of his eye. With a technical foul from Jaycee Hillsman meant that the Giants had 2 free throws and further possession to extend their lead to 13. With the positives came the negatives as Manchester found themselves in foul trouble early on picking up 5 times fouls earlier than they would have liked with still 5 minutes left to play in the third quarter. A scoring run from Glasgow quickly unravelled the Giant’s lead from leading by 12 to trailing by 3. Both teams tied 69-69 headed into the fourth quarter.
Glasgow managed to keep it close for the majority of this quarter with the lead changing multiple times and only singular possessions separating the two teams. The Giants consistently looked to break free of their Glaswegian counterparts. Lockdown defence from Jordan Whelan and an offensive foul on him led to the momentum and counterattack that Manchester had been looking for as a Tyrik Armstrong lay up followed by 5 quick succession points from Jordan Whelan put Manchester in the driving seat. A fadeaway jumper from Martaveous McKnight made the lead to 9 and another Tyrik Armstrong lay up made it 11 once again with 42 seconds left in the game. A personal foul from Rocks player coach Gareth Murray led to another set of free throws for Tyrik Armstrong who made both of them and brought the lead to 13 with 9.3 seconds left.
After a long stoppage from the referees we were back underway with a Glasgow inbound with 9.3 seconds left. Glasgow worked it around the perimeter to find Fraser Malcolm who missed three sent the National Basketball Performance Centre into sheer euphoria.
Tyrik Armstrong had the standout performance of the night with 25 points, 7 assists and 3 steals with 2 free throws to seal the victory in the dying embers of the game. Will Saunders also had an incredible scoring night finishing with 17 points and chipping in with a multitude of rebounds on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball.
Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said “Just to keep fighting was something we talked about obviously it’s been a tough game. Before we said nobody’s going to care. Geno was there he got out of isolation yesterday, not touched a ball in 2 weeks and gave incredible minutes. Same with Francois he was in isolation, Jamell has gone down today so from that sense we just talked about fighting and I’m really proud of our group and the growth.”
After such an emotional victory before the Christmas break the Giants will be looking towards their next fixture. A north west derby against the Cheshire Phoenix at the National Basketball Performance Centre for some more high octane BBL Championship action.
Words – Michael Blain
Photo – Harry Collins