BLACKBURN Phoenix, made the short trip up the A59 to Clitheroe to take on the Ribble Valley Knights in what promised to be a tough Manchester Basketball League encounter.
Having beaten the Knights in two pre-season friendlies, Blackburn entered this league game full of confidence, but right from the opening tip-off they realised they were not going to have everything their own way.
Good early pressure from the Ribble Valley guards was rewarded with easy baskets for Adam Taylor and Geoff Bogle, as the Knights jumped out to an early lead, but nineunanswered points from the Phoenix saw them edge ahead in a competitive first quarter of defensive minded basketball.
The teams traded baskets after that and at the first break, Blackburn led by the slenderest of margins 13-12.
Knights began the second quarter with renewed purpose and the combination of Tim Funnell at point guard with Patrick Simmons and Connor Ryan up front paid dividends with an 11-0 run that put the Ribble Valley squad firmly in the driving seat.
At the half the Knights suffocating defence had restricted Phoenix to just eight points in the second quarter and 21 in the half, so the home team led 32-21.
The beginning of the second half saw a role reversal, as Blackburn upped their defence and moved the ball to much better effect on offence, while Ribble Valley seemed to lose their cohesion at both ends of the floor, and the result was that the visitors closed the 11-point half-time gap to just four by the end of the third period.
So a tense final 10 minutes was in store.
Phoenix had the momentum, but did the Knights have the resolve to hold firm and grind out a result?
After just three minutes of the final quarter, Blackburn had clawed back to level the scores at 43-all and things were looking bleak for the home team.
But then guard Michael Li sprang to life and took over the game, scoring 11 of the Knights’ 13 points in the final quarter, as he steered the Ribble Valley team home for their first league victory, with the final score 54-47.
Knights next games are an away fixture at Ribby Hall Jets in Preston, and then they host Preston Pride thirds.
Anyone interested in playing basketball is welcome to attend the club’s junior or senior training sessions.
More information is available on the team’s website – www.ribblevalleyknights.co.uk