Unbeaten Panthers were always going to be the Brewers trickiest opponents so far – and so it proved.
In their first season in the North Wales Basketball Association, Ellesmere Port Panthers developed a reputation for being a high-scoring side. Something the Brewers knew all too well.
But Adam Lloyd’s side has evolved and this season has not yet allowed any team to score freely. In the early stages however, that record looked under threat as slack cover on the perimiter allowed the Panthers to hit a number of threes that would prove crucial in the final reckoning.
By the end of the first quarter the Brewers trailed by just six points, having addressed their slow start on defence. But throughout this game there was something missing. For some reason the Brewers couldn’t quite find their groove.
That was not helped by them not enjoying any luck with the foul calls, but that was not the reason for their loss. MVP Niel Gillard and captain Dave Thomas only managed to score nine points apiece, with Luke Sharland-Wong adding eight.
Brewers created chances through their offence but again, whether it was fortune, fate or something else, those chances simply didn’t drop.
The other thing that didn’t drop throughout though was the Brewers’ heads. No matter how things are going on the court, their team spirit and commitment to each other is second to none.
After losing the second quarter by just two to trail by eight at the half, the fightback was on. If the shots wouldn’t drop, the Brewers would just have to hustle even more and create more chances.
So that’s what they did, pushing hard to tire their opponents and fighting to increase their shot volume in a meaningful way.
It started to pay off as they won the third quarter 15-13 and looked all set to mount an historic comeback.
That momentum continued into the fourth and with three-and-a-half minutes to go the Brewers edged into a one-point lead – a lead which changed hands a couple of times.
However, the effort of clawing back the points against a side led by the experience of Paul Kelly and Richard McNutt had a cost. The Brewers couldn’t give themselves enough daylight in the remaining time and, with foul trouble, were unable to fend off the Panthers, who edged the win.
Post-game Brewers Head Coach Lloyd couldn’t hide his disappointment at the result, despite his pride in his team.
“That’s a tough one to take,” he said. “They have won every game this season by around 20 points but tonight it felt like we could have chalked up Panthers’ first defeat.
“It’s disappointing that some things haven’t gone our way, shots haven’t fallen, plays haven’t quite come off. Sometimes that happens but if a team can fight through that adversity and still run it close that says a lot about their character.
“In this game, I can’t question any of our players’ character. Every one of them stood up to be counted. Sometimes it’s just not your night. But it’s beginning to feel like we need to just kick up a gear now after our decent start. Sometime, pretty soon, our guys are going to crank it up and I can’t wait to see it!”