After a victory over the Bristol Flyers, the Glasgow Rocks are set to move onto the semi-finals of the BBL Cup.
Sunday 14 November, 6:40pm, Emirates Arena. The Glasgow Rocks are down three points to the Bristol Flyers with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the British Basketball League (BBL) Cup quarter final. A nervous yet expectant crowd watches as the team’s final play is set in motion. 20 tense seconds pass until the ball finds their number nine, Johnny Bunyan, in the far sided corner. He takes the shot. Splash. The crowd erupts, time-out is called, Bunyan punches the air and sprints into a blur of chest bumps.
It was a game that truly deserved overtime with both teams never gaining over a single digit lead and spending much of the match tied for points. Ali Fraser, the match’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), signalled his desire as he opened the scoring with a dominant dunk. However, it was the Flyers that came out strongest in the opening quarter. Shooting 66% of three pointers, they exposed the Rocks’ lacklustre perimeter defence to take a four-point lead going into the second quarter. Player-coach Gareth Murray, an imposing, well-bearded figure on the touchline and the court alike, was wise to this weakness as the Flyers scored no more three pointers for the rest of the half. This bedrock of defence paved the way for the Rocks to get back into the game. New signing Jordan Harris, a wily and determined shooting guard, made two threes to start the quarter, with other new addition Jaysee Hilsman ending the half with five straight points. The Rocks lead by one point at the break with all still to play for.
“New signing Jordan Harris, a wily and determined shooting guard, made two threes to start the quarter…”
Despite Fraser’s domination in the paint, the Flyers fought back to take a seven point lead midway through the third quarter. Led by crafty guards Marcus Evans and Michael Miller, their three point defense and swift offense was proving too much for the Rocks. But a timely three from Bunyan midway through the quarter changed the momentum and the Rocks managed to re-establish a one point lead. It was a similar story in the fourth quarter as Evans and Miller continued to dominate the Rocks early on. The Rocks’ offense was drying up, with point guard Johnson struggling to find the right pass, and the Flyers dominating around the hoop. But it was through an aggressive full court press, initiated and led by Murray, that the Rocks forced two turnovers and a subsequent four points, leaving them down by two points with two minutes remaining.
Heading into the final minute the crowd were on their feet. The Rocks opted to foul, concede free throws, then call a timeout, enabling them to inbound further up the court. From the stands, Murray could be seen drawing up a play and barking instructions at his players. Onlookers could only guess what was being said. As it turned out, it was a play centred around the coach himself: the ball was inbounded to Fraser and handed off to a resolute Murray who, though previously 0 for 4 from three, pulled up from behind the arc and got the Rocks to within one point. Then ensued another foul and set of free throws before the explosive Bunyan three.
The clutch shot from Bunyan forced an overtime in which the Rocks, willed on by the booming crowd, easily outscored the Flyers by 5 points. Another successful three from Murray and a stand out coast to coast play from Hillsman secured the Rocks’ place in the semi final of the BBL Cup where they’ll face the Manchester Giants.