Preston’s College Titans senior men’s basketball team got back to winning ways with a tip-to-buzzer win over local rivals Blackburn College Spinners in the North West D-League.
Captain Javel Small led the way with 18 points and was backed up by Moses Byekwaso’s 16 and Melkisedek Moreaux with 12.
“I thought we played really well,” said Small, the team’s third-highest scorer this campaign. “We stuck to our game plan and played hard for the full 40 minutes.”
Having lost to league favourites Chester in heart-breaking fashion the previous week, Preston set about making amends and came out sizzling hot from the blocks.
Small took the Spinners to task, scoring nine of this team’s first 23 points, with Junior Oscar and Moreaux chipping in with points of their own.
“It was great to see a different guy take the mantle and run with it,” said coach Malcolm Leak.
“Last week it was Moses in our defeat, this week it was Javel. We have many threats at our disposal and I am happy that someone different decided to carry this team.”
A 23-11 first quarter lead soon ballooned to 34-20 midway through the second quarter, as the Titans defence set out its stall and thwarted the Spinners time and time again.
As the half came to a close, the hosts had hit an impressive five three-point shots, with Small being tormentor-in-chief. Leading 41-22 at the half, Leak instructed his troops to maintain the focus and not to let up.
“Our guys have had a tendency to fall asleep on defence when they are sitting on a lead,” he said. “It was important we didn’t come out flat in the second half.”
A 16-8 run to start the third quarter all but ended any ideas the Spinners had of mounting a comeback.
And when Byekwaso hit a three – the team’s 10th in all – the lead was 24 points with seven minutes left.
Frustrations reached fever pitch as Spinners coach Danny Byrne got hit a with technical foul for arguing a call, and this only motivated the home side to get the job done.
Joel Ufele and Moreaux completed the undertaking and as the buzzer sounded, the 72-49 scoreline outlined the professional manner in which Preston rebounded from the despair the previous week.
“Sure we could have rolled up and packed it in,” said Byekwaso. “But this team is much bigger then that, The coach has taught us well about how to get back up on your feet. We felt like we needed to come out and make a statement.”
The win gave Preston the chance to leapfrog the Spinners into second place in the North West D-League table with a 7-2 record.
Blackburn dropped to third, having one more defeat to their name. Chester continue to impress in their inaugural season with a league-best 9-1 record. So are they out of reach for Preston? Leak thinks not.
“Anything is possible,” said Leak. “Chester still have six games to play and you never know in this league, if they slip up I am upbeat my guys can step up and finish strongly.”
With Preston having six games of their own – four of which are at home – to decide their fate, they genuinely believe they can finish the season well and reach the playoffs in this their second-ever season in the league.