MORPETH Mavericks’ big Division Two play-off semi-final second leg tie at home to Phoenix Knights proved to be a bitter-sweet affair.
The Mavs were left feeling somewhat bitter after failing to progress to the final, going down on aggregate to their old rivals from Birtley.
But what was sweet for Morpeth was that they won the tie at the Riverside Leisure Centre on Sunday 66-59 to maintain a truly magnificent record of being unbeaten on their home court all season.
In truth the Mavs knew they had their work cut out after losing by 16 in the away leg of this play-off tie. But Morpeth, the runaway TyneMet Division Two champions, came so agonisingly close after another 40 minutes of gut-busting intensity.
Although it was nip and tuck in the first half on Sunday, the Mavs edging the first quarter 12-11 and the second 14-13, it was after the interval that the home side really got into their stride.
In the first leg the Mavs’ execution on offence had been woeful - their poorest shooting display of the season in fact. But in the third quarter of this game, the Mavs’ shooters lit it up as they rained in six three-pointers in that period, four of them from Andy Gibbison, to take a 13-point lead into the final quarter and put them within touching distance of an aggregate win.
Four quick points off the belt early in the fourth from Sam Thistlethwaite saw the Mavs take a 15-point lead on the day and edge them to within two of the margin they needed to clinch a final place. But then an 8-0 run by a resilient Phoenix team, in what was a pulsating game for the sizeable number of spectators present, saw the visitors close the gap to seven. And although the two teams continued to slug it out, with the majority of the remaining points scored coming from the free throw line, seven was to be the winning margin for the tiring Mavs on the final buzzer.
Although the Mavs’ three perimeter shooters Andy Gibbison (26pts), Yildirimh Bayazit (nine) and Matt Davison (seven) combined to score just under two-thirds of their 66 points on the day, it wasn’t all about their outside game.
There were double doubles for Kevin Smiles (11 points and 13 rebounds) and Sam Thistlethwaite (10 and 12), while Greg Mavin also put a shift in, hauling down nine boards even though he failed to get on the scoresheet.
Scorers: Gibbison 26, Smiles 11, Thistlethwaite 10, Bayazit nine, Davison seven, Sanderson two, Clewes one.