Sunday, February 05, 2017
Stefan Gill has a priceless habit of coming up big when Manchester Magic need him most. The veteran guard delivered the goods once again, scoring his team’s final eight points of the game as Magic overcame Essex Leopards 91-90 in a pulsating contest at the Amaechi Basketball Centre.
Leopards had led the game for the majority, but Magic fought back hard to set up an electrifying final quarter. It was then that Gill came into his own; firstly seeing off a long-range shooting contest with Essex pair Douglas Bennett and Darrell Bethune, and then hitting the game-winning shot as he drove to basket.
Gill finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but had a lot of help from three team mates on the way. Simon Anumba was tenacious on both ends, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and five steals, while Duane Morgan had a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Lee Goldsbrough had a double-double of his own, with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and it was Goldsbrough who made a critical play in the dying seconds, blocking a shot inside to deny the Leopards a victory they arguably deserved.
Magic coach Paul Middleton commented: “We got away with one tonight. Stef makes a couple of big plays at the end and we play defence for a couple of possessions, and we get away.
“I’m not disrespecting Essex, because I thought they played quite well, but the opportunities they got were because of our awful defence. We can’t be like that again, because we’ll pay for it.
“In the end, we managed to dig it out, so I guess you should be pleased when you win a game and you don’t play well, but we have to be better than that if we’ve got a chance of winning the league.”
Magic were in much better form the previous night, making light work of Leicester Warriors for a commanding 96-58 victory.
Gill got his work done early against the Warriors, hitting 16 of his 18 points in the first period. Morgan had another double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Jack Minister showed off his broad skill set with 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The two wins put Magic clear in second place in NBL Division One with a 13-3 record, just one win behind leaders Team Northumbria. Next up are two games on consecutive Sundays against London Lituanica, with an away date in the league on 12th February and the National Trophy final at the University of Hertfordshire on 19th February.
Report by Graeme Roberts