Solent Kestrels taken into overtime in tense victory against Essex

Team Solent Kestrels in action against Essex Rebels in the KitKing Trophy (Picture: Kai Johnston)
Team Solent Kestrels in action against Essex Rebels in the KitKing Trophy (Picture: Kai Johnston)

TEAM Solent Kestrels booked their spot in the quarter-final of the KitKing Trophy as they overcame an overtime thriller with Essex Rebels, winning 100-97 at the Solent Sports Complex.

The sides were all square at 84-84 after 40 minutes of action, after Greg Durand was unable to convert on the buzzer.

But a back-and-forth extra session would see TSK take a narrow victory to move to 2-1 in Group One.

The game opened up in frantic fashion as both teams racked up points early, the hosts relying on Ilias Taiwo for early production whilst Rory Winter found his scoring rhythm for the Rebels.

It was TSK who took the first meaningful lead, after a 9-0 run gave them a 15-8 advantage, forcing Essex into their first time-out of the game.

The hosts pushed the lead out to as many as nine through Oliver Wright and despite a reply from Rebels forward Tyreese Hudson, Kestrels took a 29-22 lead after one.

An 8-2 run for the visitors across the opening 90 seconds of the second saw them pull within just a point, before eventually tying things up at 33-33.

Kestrels would respond however with a run of their own as Elias Poorman capped 10-0 run to restore his side’s lead, this time at 11, 45-34.

Abdul Oladipupo came off the bench to give the hosts their largest lead of the game thus far at 14 but four points to close the half for Essex left the gap at 10 at the break, TSK led 50-40.

Kai Walker kickstarted the second half with a pair of triples but that would not be enough to stop the Rebels trimming the deficit to just three points after four minutes of play.

Durand weathered the storm for TSK with a triple of his own, however an 8-1 run for the visitors saw them edge in front at 61-60, forcing coach Ben Stanley into a time-out.

The lead would swing back and forth post time-out as the teams exchanged blows but there was no separating them as the third quarter buzzer sounded at 70-70.

Kestrels would throw the first punch in the fourth quarter as they moved out to a 78-72 lead behind an Olly Wright jump shot, forcing an Essex time-out.

Despite Sam Akano extending the gap to eight points, Rebels would eventually find themselves within a point with just more than three minutes to play.

Owen Chose scored on back-to-back possessions to give Essex an 84-82 lead but Taiwo tied things up at 84.

With both sides coming up empty to close out regulation, the score stayed level heading into an extra five minutes.

The extra period would see Poorman take control for TSK as he poured in nine of the home side’s 16 points.

Walker gave Kestrels a four-point advantage with three minutes to go and despite a response from the Rebels, Poorman looked to have given the hosts control at 96-91.

Essex had other ideas as they pulled within two points with 53 seconds remaining.

Walker found his way to the hoop to restore a four-point cushion for the hosts but Essex’s Riccardo Massafra stroked a triple to leave the score at 98-87 with 33 seconds to play.

After a broken possession, Taiwo would calm the nerves of the Kestrels side as he converted in the paint with just 13.9 seconds remaining, to give Kestrels a three-point lead.

Post time-out Essex would get no less than three looks at a game-levelling shot but would ultimately come up short, giving TSK a 100-97 victory.

Head coach Stanley said: “This game gave us exactly what we needed in terms of adversity and finding ways to overcome Essex’s runs, which I was really pleased with.

“The group are continuing to buy in to a lot of the areas of emphasis for us and this past two weekends has given us a chance to begin to build an identity.

“We had a number of positive contributions across the board once again and that will be huge for us as the regular season gets underway.”

Kestrels now turn their attention to Saturday evening’s trip to Derby Trailblazers (7.30pm), where they will face off for a spot in the semi-finals of the KitKing Trophy.

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