MORPETH’S senior basketball outfit the Mavericks held their nerve to complete the double over TyneMet Division Two leaders All Saints Sabres in an overtime thriller.
The Mavericks had beaten the Sabres earlier in the season but knew the return at the Riverside Leisure Centre on Sunday would prove the biggest test yet of their title credentials.
The result of this pulsating game was in the balance until the last seconds of overtime, where Morpeth emerged victorious 81-78 to extend their winning run in the league to seven games.
And it was a result which took the Mavs into second with three games in hand over the leaders, who have now had three losses this season to Morpeth’s one.
It was nip and tuck in the first quarter, and thereafter it was to be a game of runs – the Sabres responding to a 7-0 run by the Mavs with an 8-0 run of their own in the second to see the sides tied at 34-34 at the break.
The home side were up by three at the end of the third and, with top scorer Andy Gibbison notching nine of his 19 points in the fourth to see the Mavs take a 13-point lead with just over two minutes left, the result seemed beyond doubt.
But incredibly the Mavs crumbled in the face of the Sabres full-court press to such an extent that the visitors plundered 13 points without reply to tie the scores at 75-75 and send the game into overtime.
Only one basket was scored in the first three and a half minutes of overtime, and it went to Sabres.
Mavericks called a time-out and, upon the restart, a perfectly executed play saw Yildirim Bayazit drain a three-pointer to put the home side one up.
The same player then made one of two free throws to give the home side a two-point advantage, but Sabres made one of two from the line to reduce the deficit to one again.
With the Mavs looking to run down the clock in the final seconds, Matt Davison was fouled with less than two seconds left and he went to the line, showing nerves of steel to make both shots stretch the lead to three.
Sabres still had one last possession but the quick release three-pointer needed to beat the buzzer and force a second period of overtime failed to materialise, and the Mavs celebrated a magnificent victory.
While Gibbison was again top scorer, special mention must be made of Kevin Smiles, the Mavs’ veteran big man incredibly playing the full 45 minutes and weighing in with 18 points, while at the other end of the age scale 15-year-old Eddie Matthew, making his senior debut, scored 14.
Scorers: Gibbison 19, Smiles 18, Matthew 14, Bayazit 12, Davison 8, Sanderson and Thistlethwaite 4, Green 2.