WITH things hotting up in the Manchester Area Basketball League in both the title race and the push for play-off places, title contenders Ribby Hall Jets were the latest visitors to Clitheroe to take on Ribble Valley Knights.
This was actually to be the fourth meeting of these teams having played a pre-season friendly, a Cup tie, and a league match – all rather one-sided victories for the Jets. However, Knights had been recently working on a new offense and were hoping that this, combined with their customary tough defence, would help them compete with one of the division’s top three teams.
And so it proved in the first quarter, with Knights patiently working the ball around on offence and getting some good open shots, while on defence the locals also worked well as a unit with their zone slowing down the usually high-scoring Ribby Hall outfit.
The first period ended with Jets leading by the narrowest of margins at 13-12 and confidence in the Knights camp was high.
A tactical change by Jets saw them switch their defence from the more passive zone as they began the second quarter with an active man-for-man coverage, which seemed an obvious attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the Ribble Valley offense.
The tactics seemed to work as Knights lost some of their poise and patience on offense, though with their defence remaining solid the teams were still locked together as the half approached, with Jets still in front by the solitary point at 21-20. However, the last two minutes of the half were to prove pivotal as Ribby Hall managed to exploit a few weaknesses in the tiring Knights defence as they finished the quarter on a 12-3 run.
So Ribble Valley began the second quarter down by 10, but with Knights allowing the Ribby Hall man-for-man defence to disrupt their offensive flow, they never had the firepower to get back in to the match and Jets crept further in front, with the final score a 68-45 victory for the visitors.
After such a positive start to the game, the Knight’s squad were very disappointed with the outcome of the match, however this was a much closer game than the final score might imply and it certainly proved that Ribble Valley can compete with the very best teams in this league.
So a victory in 2012 still eludes the local side, but Knights remaining three home fixtures are all against lower placed teams, so a late run of form could still see Ribble Valley finish the season in a play-off position.
Anyone interested in playing basketball is welcome to attend junior or senior training sessions. More information is available on the team’s website www.ribblevalleyknights.co.uk