Preston’s College basketball team are going from strength to strength as they opened up the play-offs with a excellent 93-88 victory over Derby Trailblazers.
England Under-18s star Kyle Carey led the way with a personal haul of 28 points with Jonathan Joseph adding 17 and Moses Byekwaso chipping in with 15.
With the team earning a bye into the second round due to Newcastle-under-Lyme forfeiting in the earlier round, they matched up with a Derby side who were a division above them but who had lost seven games to Preston’s one.
The gulf in class showed early on as the hosts started out tentatively missing a few easy baskets as Derby established a 6-2 lead early doors.
However as the first quarter went on, some stellar play from forward Byekwaso and Carey steadied the nerves as the team led by two at the end of one quarter 26-24.
If the first quarter was anything to go then the second quarter just ratcheted it up a couple of notches as both sides traded baskets at will.
First Preston opened up a 36-29 lead only to be pegged back by some long-range barrages from Derby.
With three minutes left before the interval, Preston had its largest lead of the contest at 48-38 but true to form the visitors wouldn’t lie down and cut the arrears to six as the half came to a close, 51-45.
In all a record 19 three-point field goals were made in the first half between the two sides.
“There were lots of threes from both the sides,” remarked Coach Malcolm Leak.
“Derby are a great three point shooting team and as we didn’t have our inside player at our disposal we had to adjust our game plan and start knocking down threes of our own.”
No mater what Preston threw at the Trailblazers they kept chipping away at the sizeable lead. Deficits of nine and eight were not a distraction for the visitors as they patiently set about reducing the arrears.
Indeed as the fourth quarter started they made big in-roads as they took the lead for the very first time in the game at 80-79 with a little over five minutes remaining.
Rattled, but not perturbed, the hosts set about making amends as a timeout by play-caller Leak settled what nerves and doubts the team had.
Whatever words the American said to his troop worked wonders as they came out energised and went on an 8-0 run spanning two minutes that put them up for good at 87-80 with less then 180 seconds remaining.
And although the visitors pegged them back to three at 88-91 with 43 seconds to go, the home side finished off the contest from the free throw line as Jonathan Joseph scooped two of his 17 points.
“It was a great game for the neutral,” stated coach Leak. “We had to adjust as we were without Melkisedek Moreaux but credit where credit is due everybody stepped up and delivered.”
Carey added: “Today was a very good game. Our team showed that we can play through adversity.
“There were times when Derby were shooting crazy perimeter shots but we weren’t rattled. We fought through and our bench players contributed massively. I saw some of my team-mates really step up big.
“ If it wasn’t for players like Ebinze Udoh and Ike Isichei we would have been in a big hole.”