Gateway College Sports Hall, Leicester – Saturday 8 November

After a week off due to half of Shropshire sunning themselves in faraway lands last week, City of Birmingham’s (CoB)  under 13s travelled yet again, this week to play Leicester Warriors at Gateway College.

An announcement leading up to the match, of the departure of top scorer Kumari Bailey, on the day after Guy Fawkes night, had provided something of a rocket.  The fans though were hopeful that this would allow others the opportunity to sparkle and not send them into a spin.

But Warriors had won two out of two at home before this match, although closer inspection showed that those wins were against teams in the bottom three.  So after my weekend off for Halloween, they didn’t seem too scary a proposition – personally though, I still managed to have a ‘mare.

After some welcome feedback on my previous reports, I was hoping that this one wouldn’t half be good – and it turned out to be less than three quarters, which is what remained of the match by the time I arrived at Gateway (the Gateway to the east it seemed, going by how far out we had to venture).  The college had moved since my days in Leicester, from near the centre to completely the wrong side of city as far as I was concerned.  Apparently Leicester’s boundaries have been extended numerous times – once too many based on this evidence.

This, and the torrent of rain which stopped me using the top lane of the M6, contrived to delay my arrival, by which time CoB had sunk a torrent of baskets, despite a reportedly slow start to the match.  Managing to find a space in a hall that struggled to provide adequate seating for a decent sized crowd, I noted that we were 15-35 up just into the 2nd quarter.  A quick reccy between my final figures and the official ones show that Ashford was on fire near the basket during the first period, an observation confirmed later on by Darshan (Gill, my son, the team’s number 13), who told me he’d scored in the quarter to match his best tally so far.  But as I’m starting to learn, it’s not just about how many you score – it’s also about how many times you can stop the opponents scoring.

On my arrival however the scoreboard appeared to slow down to, well, my pace, as CoB added 10 more points by half time, and Leicester just 6, due to a combination of good defence by City and a number of missed shots from both sides.  Lacey helped move the score along, after a lovely combination between himself and Wallace-Steele had helped Ashford to increase his tally, the first half ending 21-45.

Into the 3rd quarter, as Leicester pushed to try and shrink the defecit, it was CoB who upped the scoring rate again with Patterson and Wallace-Steele taking advantage of some quick breakaways.  Gaynor took a blow to the face as Leicester desperately tried to keep in touch, but bravely stayed on to attempt his free throws.  Leicesters nippy little number 4 (almost their equivalent of our Lacey, but not quite) caught the eye with some points, and after McBrien got a ball stuck between the hoop and board, Rupra added points along with an interception for Gaynor to break and score, followed by Gill with an underarm special.  Despite a couple of baskets conceded late in the quarter, CoB went into the last quarter 33-65 up.

With a substantial advantage, CoB may have been guilty of some complacency and showboating in the final quarter, as well as some fatigue possibly setting in.  There were some missed opportunities, as well as missed long shots as the Warriors started eating into the large lead, however these were just practice aims for some impressive 3 pointers from Patterson and Rupra that touched ‘nothing but net’ after recent recruit Sinclair had also added to the total.  CoB lost the 4th quarter 19-15, but won the match due to hard work and organisation during the first three.

The final score was a convincing 52-80 victory, with a number of players really stepping up following the departure of an important player, and showing the importance of the team.  There were signs of some excellent combinations, showing that the lads are more than capable of adding up to more than the some of their parts.

(Having missed the start, top scorers were:

Ashford: lots*;

Lacey: lots too*;

Wallace-Steele: a considerable amount*;

Patterson: quite a few*.

*For official totals, please see an official.

So next week, we hope, sees the lads take their home bow against Leicester’s other remaining entrants, the Riders.  Though no team should be underestimated, on form no less than a win will be expected, against a team with just one narrow win from five fixtures.

And then, Super Sunday.  CoB take on the only other currently unbeaten team in the league, Derby Trailblazers, in what promises to be their toughest game to date, with the added twist that this will follow Derby’s visit to league leaders Northamptonshire Titans on the day before.  So a week or intense training and planning begins now, and in one week we will know more about whether CoB’s chances of a top four finish, and their position in that top four.