Mersey Tigers recorded their first win of the BBL Championship campaign as they overcame the Durham Wildcats 85-81, drawing level with their opponents in the league placings in the process.
David Aliu, with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Kris Douse, with 18 points, led the Tigers; while Paul Elderkin led all scorers with 24 points for the visiting Wildcats.
The Tigers led for much of the game, but had to survive a late fight back to secure the win. The teams exchanged baskets early on, separated by no more than 2 points through the first five minutes, with Paul Elderkin reaching six early points for the visitors. But from there the Tigers held their opponents scoreless for 3 minutes, while rattling off 8 points of their own to help them to a 28-16 first quarter lead after Aliu’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Mark Elderkin made a three-pointer early in the second to help narrow the gap, before Fred Hinenkamp added one of his own to make the score 31-24. The Wildcats got right back in the game in the run up to half time, to set up the exciting second half, as another Paul Elderkin triple and Ralph Bucci’s ‘and-one’ play made the score 44-39 at the break.
The Wildcats levelled the game at 46, on Mario Flaherty’s basket, with a 7-2 opening to the third quarter. But the Tigers were resilient in posting a 14-4 response, with 6 for Marlin Capers, to reinstate their advantage at 60-50 and they took a 65-54 edge into the decisive quarter.
But the Wildcats had another fast start to the fourth period with a 10-2 burst, behind 6 points from Flaherty, to make it a one possession game once more at 67-64, before Matthew Otten’s triple steadied the Tigers. The visitors weren’t perturbed and Flaherty scored again, with a Paul Elderkin triple coming soon after and Mark Elderkin’s basket putting them up 70-71. The largest lead they held was 72-75, before a couple of lead changes and they were still in front at 78-79 heading into the last minute. But the Tigers scored the next 5 points, Otten’s basket with 38 seconds remaining putting them up for good before Aliu and James Griffiths saw the game out from the free-throw line.