Preston’s College basketball team stormed to the top of the NBDL North West table with a pulsating 88-59 win on the road at Calderdale Explorers.
Moses Byekwaso outlined his recent rich vein of form with another 22 points, and was ably backed up by Melkisedek Moreaux’s 19 and Junior Oscar’s 11.
“We played a better team game and I felt that this is what gave us the win,” said Moses.
“The fact that everyone was willing to give up their points for the betterment of the team says a lot of the make-up of our squad.”
In what was a low-scoring first quarter, Preston came out tentatively out of the blocks and settled soon after as Moreaux found his stride, hitting seven of his side’s first 10 points of the contest.
By the time the quarter ended, Junior Oscar, Joel Ufele and Umar Siddique all joined in on the act as their points gave Preston a slender 16-11 lead.
Preston continued the onslaught to begin the second quarter, outscoring the hosts 11-3 in the first four minutes to give them a commanding 27-14 lead.
And with just over three minutes remaining of the first half, the lead ballooned to a 39-18 lead for the visitors.
At the halfway stage, and with a 45-28 lead, Preston coach Malcolm Leak urged his players to finish the job off.
Whatever words were exchanged in the huddle did not seem to have the desired effect as Preston stuttered.
A more assured, confident Calderdale side took Preston to task as they started the second half on a 9-0 surge to cut the arrears to single digits at 37-45.
“They got comfortable knowing that they could beat the team, they didn’t put the pressure on them,” said Leak of his side’s lapse in concentration.
“They don’t know the game is 40 minutes long and not 20.”
A timeout ensued and Preston returned to the court with a new-found gusto and tenacity.
Their first points of the second half, a driving lay-up by Ufele, came with under five minutes to go in the quarter.
And it was Ufele who sparked the turnaround as another two of his points came amidst a 14 point run as they held Calderdale scoreless for over three minutes.
Starting the final quarter up 69-47, Leak decided to rotate his players, giving the opportunity to run out several of the team’s younger players who were drafted in to cover for the unavailable trio of Kadeem Crabbe, Anthony Stanhope and Jonny Joseph.
And they did not disappoint. Some stellar defensive hustle by Khalil Baro and Ramaar Morgan-Johnson set the tone for Sheik Sherriff’s spectacular airborne displays.
Known for his high-flying dunking ability, Sherriff got on the scoresheet with several signature moves which often resulted in the opposition getting out of the way.
“Sheik played very well,” said Leak. “He did a lot of the dirty work like rebound. Khalil played decent as he attacked the defence.
“If we keep playing the guys like these in the senior team they can go back to their Under-18s team more equipped to dominate.”
With the result no longer in doubt, Preston eased up to end the contest a worthy winner.
The win saw them boast the best away record in the league with four victories away from the comfort of home court, a fact that was not lost on the coach.
“We like playing on the road, we’re like a rock band! We love going to away venues, seeing their support and playing for their fans,” said Leak. “When we are at home we don’t get the support we deserve, so its nice to go on the road and perform.”
With top spot secured and a 5-1 record to boot, they finally return home next Sunday to play a Carlisle side who languish at the bottom of the league.
“We will prepare for them like we prepare for any other team,” said Leak. “We are going to continue to get better but right now we’ll take this win.”