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Ealing stun the Arrows

Pete Jacques

Ealing Tornadoes added to their bulging trophy cabinet when they snatched the NBL Division Two Championship from the previously unbeaten Derbyshire Arrows, pulling off an 82-81 victory in the dying seconds of a thrilling encounter at Chesterfield.

Both sides began nervously, and nearly two minutes had expired on the clock before Garnet Gayle opened the scoring for the Arrows, with a well taken fade away jumper. Ealing hit back to lead briefly at 5-6, but excellent rebounding at both end, coupled with fast hands in mid court enabled Derbyshire to control the first quarter for a 21-12 lead.

There was more of the same in the second quarter, as Derbyshire played the more composed basketball, and a low-scoring first half ended with the Arrows in control, 39-28. Remarkably, Malik Jivens, who had hit 41 points on Ealing’s visit in the league a few weeks previously, had a mere two points to his name at this stage.

The third quarter saw a complete reversal of fortunes, as Ealing came storming out to reduce the margin to just three in the opening 2 ¾ minutes. A Givens lay-up had opened the scoring, only for young Jamie Davidson to reply from 3-pont range, but then Mark Quashie took an offensive rebound and hit his first points, and Pete Deppisch hit a “3”, a “2” and two free-shots, all without reply, to leave the scores at 42-39.
Derbyshire dug in following a Time Out, but the momentum had swung Ealing’s way, and Jivens gave them their first lead since early in the first quarter when he hit a 3-pointer with less than 3 minutes of the period remaining.

The lead changed hands four times in those closing minutes, but another Jivens “3”, one second from the buzzer, gave the Tornadoes the advantage, 58-60. Amazingly Ealing had scored more points in that quarter (32) than in the whole of the first half.
A frantic fourth quarter saw Ealing several times pull away to a seven point lead, but each time the Arrows pulled back to within three, despite the loss of 6’11” centre Rick Marsh, on five fouls, after less than 3 ½ minutes.

With just under two minutes to play the game seemed to have swung firmly Ealing’s way, as Derbyshire’s captain, Shawn King, fouled out, and Mark Quashie hit 2 from 2 for a 79-72 Tornadoes’ lead.

This game still had several twists in the tail, however. Garnet Gayle’s rejection of a Pierre-Henry Fontaine lay-up brought the crowd to their feet, but the Arrows failed to convert the possession, and when Gayle picked up his fourth foul, with 1:31 remaining, and Fontaine sank 1 of 2, for an eight point lead, it looked all over for the undefeated League champions.

A Davidson 3-pointer raised the adrenalin level again, and when Deppisch was called for an offensive foul on the next possession, Kingsley Ellmer hit his fifth “trey” of the game, and Arrows were back in contention, at 78-80.

Frantic mid-court action saw the ball change hands several times, before Derbyshire once again established possession, only to see successive shots miss the target. A third offensive rebound, however, ended with the ball fed out once again to Ellmer beyond the arc – and Arrows led 81-80!

As the clock ran down, Ealing put up a despairing shot, and, as it bounced back off the ring, there was Jivens, rising above the defence, to tip it home to clinch an Ealing victory that seemed to have escaped their grasp.

Pete Deppisch led the Ealing scorers, with 28, while Milek Jivens finished with 15 despite his slow start. Mark Quashie weighed in with 12, including a perfect 8 of 8 from the line. A disconsolate Kingley Ellmer led all scorers, with 30, followed by Garnet Gayle with 17 and Jamie Davidson with 16. Uncharacteristically, Gayle missed 4 of 5 free throws in the course of the game.

Coach Jack Majewski, who has guided Ealing since their formation just five short years ago, was understandably delighted. “In the first half they outworked us,” he commented, “and they wanted it more. We were trying too hard, and making mistakes.

“We adjusted well in the second half, and increased our defensive intensity which gave us the chance to run at them and score more freely. We adjusted our man for man tactics, and made sure the press was less stretched.”

“This shows the heart and desire in this club” added Assistant Coach Cedi Frederick. “We’ve talked about self-belief all Season, and the guys never stopped believing out there.” 

The Tornadoes thus added the Division Two Championship to the Junior Cup and Championship (and their Junior Conference title), and the under-20 Cup, all of which they have already won this Season.

For Derbyshire, the disappointment will take a long while to ease, but nothing can detract from the magnificent Season they have had. Their name is now etched alongside those of Crystal Palace (Div. 1, 1996), Worthing (Div. 1, 1988), Leicester (Div. 1, 1982), and the original Crystal Palace (Premier division, 1980, ’78, ’77 and ’74), as teams who have completed an undefeated League Season.

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