Durham Wildcats have won for the first time in fifteen outings – a run stretching back to the start of November – after defeating fellow playoff hopefuls the Cheshire Jets 90-86 in the North East. That condemned the Jets to their sixth straight defeat and saw the Wildcats take the head-to-head between the teams.
Mike Capocci led the victors with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Chris Pearce added 24 points. The Jets were led by 23 points from Colin O’Reilly. The game was settled in the final minute, after both teams had spells in which they looked as though they might take control sooner.
A half of two quarters saw the Jets run away with the game early on, before the Wildcats found their stride. The visitors started with a rapid 9-0 run that included an old-fashioned three-point play from Dan Briglia and 4 points for Bill Cole, as the hosts failed to score in the opening two and a half minutes. Mario Flaherty notched the Wildcats’ first basket, but the run continued as the Jets were 18-4 up after five minutes with Cole adding a three-pointer. The Wildcats were down by as much as 10-28 within the final two minutes of the period, but struck back before the buzzer with a Capocci triple and 4 points from Pearce helping them to 17-29.
And a 17-2 start to the second stanza – making the run 24-3 across the break – amazingly saw the Wildcats take their first lead of the game at 31 as Pearce added another 10 points, including a three-pointer; the Jets scored just once in the opening six and a half minutes of the quarter, having scored a massive 29 points in the first period. But the Jets steadied themselves before the half-time break, re-taking the lead on Nathan Schall’s score and holding it through to the half at 38-39.
The Wildcats gained the ascendancy after the break as early three-pointers from Pearce and Capocci helped them off to a 10-3 start for a 48-42 lead. The run continued for the home team and it became double-figures at 57-46 on DJ Galvin’s basket midway through the period. But the Jets hit back with the next five points, including an Adam Brown three-pointer, and were back to within one shot after O’Reilly’s triple, then forcing a 24 second turnover and Matt Schneck making it 61-59. But Paul Elderkin scored the next two baskets, and another before the quarter was out, to see the Wildcats up 69-64 going into the decisive quarter.
O’Reilly’s three-pointer made the score 71-69 early in the fourth, only for Bucci to respond in kind to settle the home nerves. But the game was teetering on a knife-edge as a nervy period ensued before the Jets held their hosts scoreless for two minutes and took the lead at 76-77 on Schneck’s basket. Pearce tied the game with a free-throw inside the final four minutes, before a Capocci ‘and-one’ play was matched by Brown’s triple for the Jets, for a tie at 80 with three minutes to play. From there, the game saw four lead changes and two further ties: Cole put the Jets in front before a Capocci three-pointer made the score 83-82. The Jets took the lead inside the final minute on a pair of Cole free-throws but Elderkin responded immediately and, after Brown missed, DJ Galvin made 2/2 at the line to put the Wildcats up 89-86 with 11 seconds to play. Cole missed the three-pointer to tie the game with four seconds left, before Elderkin sealed it at the line.