Manchester retained their D1M Playoff title after a comfortable 73-53 win over Loughborough. A poor 2nd quarter where the Riders fell behind and shot just 2/15 from the floor proved too much to overcome against a well drilled and talented Magic side. Unable to call upon the injured Josh Ward-Hibbert, Loughborough struggled to find answers on offence for the duration.
With the game meandering through the 2nd half, an altercation between Lee Goldsborough and Jonas Dieterich during a loose ball play led to unsportsmanlike fouls for both players and a disqualification for Magic’s Stefan Gill after he was involved in the aftermath. That was as exciting as things got in a 2nd half that never really threatened a comeback from Loughborough.
Duane Morgan treated the vocal Manchester crowd to some spectacular plays, including a number of dunks and an alley-oop for good measure. He was awarded the game’s MVP trophy after his stat line of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 assists.
Morgan started his MVP afternoon off well and picked up a team high 5 points in the opening 10 minutes. More importantly captain Jack Minister, guard Kayin Darbey and Lee Goldsborough all settled into the game with early points as Manchester moved out to a 22-16 1st quarter lead. Loughborough’s athletic guard Reiss Pinnock offered some resistance but it wasn’t the start the Riders were looking for as the initiative was with their opponents heading into the 2nd.
With the largely Manchester based crowd fully into the game and behind the team in the lead, Loughborough crumbled in the 2nd. With only Pinnock and Levi Noel troubling the scorers, it was a crippling 10 minutes for Loughborough’s chances of success as practically everything they attempted failed to connect. With a young roster, confidence was quickly dented and the D1M 5th seeds never really recovered. A 21 point Manchester lead at the half meant the game was firmly in the hands of the reigning playoff champions.
The main talking point of the 2nd half occurred midway through the 3rd period and led to Stefan Gill leaving the court much earlier than expected. With Duane Morgan grabbing an offensive rebound, he went to put the ball back before being forced into a miss by a Lucien Christofis foul. Grabbing the rebound as the whistle sounded, both Goldsbrough and Dieterich went about the act with a bit too much effort for the others’ liking. That led to a shove from the Manchester man and a chest bump from the Riders’ captain. Taking exception to Dieterich’s actions, Gill became involved in the melee with a shove that earned him a DQ.
Aside from that flash point, the 3rd period played out with little of note. Loughborough sought a way back into the game that was frequently denied by the continued scoring of Manchester and their own errors on offence. Even when the Riders were presented with opportunities from the free throw line, they faltered there to and recorded a 39% success rate from the charity stripe in the game.
The final quarter provided Manchester Coach Paul Middleton with a real luxury as he was able to provide his bench with some useful minutes in a showpiece game. Cian Hickey, Tyme Regent-Bascombe and Yannick Onifade all saw their first action of the contest during the final 10 minutes and Kaiyem Cleary was provided with an extended opportunity to showcase his talented. To their credit, Loughborough continued to fight but the difference in score didn’t deviate far from the 20-point mark before the final buzzer sounded.
All images courtesy of Mansoor Ahmed/AhmedPhotos