Pride firsts topple club-mates

reston Pride first team with the Manchester Area Basketball League Cup after their victory against Pride thirds
reston Pride first team with the Manchester Area Basketball League Cup after their victory against Pride thirds
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The Preston Pride first team beat Preston Pride thirds 73-57 in the final of the Manchester Area Basketball League Cup.

History was made as it was the first time that two sides from the same club had reached the MABL Cup final.

The firsts qualified for the showpiece event – staged at UCLan’s Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre – having progressed through four rounds and achieved a series of close-fought triumphs, though were comfortable 80-59 winners at Bury Bluedevils in the semi-final.

The third team had an extra round to get through and reached the final with a tight 68-65 victory against Tropics in their semi.

Both sides entered the match in fine form, having lost just three league games from 30 between them so far this season.

The thirds won the tip-off but it was the firsts who started the better, with a number of well executed lay-ups and baskets handing them the early impetus.

The points continued to flow for Pride firsts as the opening quarter progressed, which prompted thirds head coach Neal Hopkins to call the game’s first time-out.

That halt in play seemed to do the thirds the power of good as a couple of successful free throws as well a succession of impressive drives to the basket, brought them back into the game and the quarter ended with the first team narrowly in front at 24-23.

Pride thirds began the second quarter brilliantly and went into the lead for the first time in the match with a successful lay-up.

The firsts called for their maiden time-out just before the midway stage of the game in order to reassess their strategy.

Half-time arrived moments after and the thirds had turned the game around to lead 
42-39.

The opening moments of the third saw Pride firsts quickly re-establish their lead with Phil Hargreaves in particular contributing a number of successive points, including a superb three-pointer.

The response from the first team seemed to startle the thirds and they then became more assertive in their defence, pressing Pride firsts from the half court.

Pride firsts began to stretch their advantage even further but the thirds responded wel, though a string of missed free throws did little to help their cause.

The quarter eventually ended with the firsts leading 55-52.

But the final part of the match saw the first team quickly extend their lead further as experience began to prevail over youth.

A final time-out was called by the thirds as they attempted to make a late push for the win but tempers then started to flare as the overall outcome of the match became more and more obvious.

The clock eventually ticked down to signal the end of the final quarter, with Pride firsts emerging 73-57 victors.

Pride chairman Chris Smith was delighted to see two teams from the club contesting the match.

He sai: “You underestimate how big it is.

“This league is probably the best local league within England and to have two Preston teams in the cup final shows the depth in quality of basketball in the city.

“It’s a massive achievement not just by the players but also by the organisation and the people who run the club behind the scenes.”