Nechells Sports Centre – Saturday 8 November

After arriving late to watch my eldest and his under 13 colleagues win in Leicester earlier, I pulled up to watch the seniors at Nechells with my youngest, who in his usual vigilant manner asked “Have you got the money dad?”.  If only he’d said that as I left the house!  (Bear with me, there is a point to this).  So having embarrassingly squirmed my way in with a £3 IOU, 5 minutes before tip-off, I grabbed the programme from the nearest seat to me, in preparation for my write up.  Well, it’s just a printed piece of A4 paper that would be left on the floor at the end of the night, right?

Today’s opponents were Nottingham Hoods (see what they’ve done there?).  Weighing up expectations, (other than one win by forfeiture) today’s opponents had just one narrow win over the bottom placed team, from four matches, so CoB were hopeful of a positive result.

The announcer read out the CoB player names as they ran out in their whites (that’s the kit they were sporting this week), with the Hoods in a dark green strip adorned by their sponsors, McDonalds, golden arcs.

This was followed by an impeccably observed minute’s silence following the tragic and shocking news of the death of Doncaster Danum Eagles player Nana Jumah last Tuesday, after he collapsed at the start of a training session and never regained consciousness.  The “big man with a big smile”, aged 28, had visited CoB as part of the Eagles team in a match just three weeks earlier.

The opening exchanges produced a close affair in terms of points as Jarrett called for movement from his colleagues, and I found myself noting the same things about both teams – scoring 3 pointers but missing a number of free throws each, which allowed the announcer to play his full array of sound affects for the benefit of a decent crowd.  A very end to end game this, I thought – but then concluded that basketball matches do tend to be.  Notts had a player penalised whilst in possession for palming off a CoB defender, and another pair of unfruitful free throws shortly before the buzzer saw them trail to CoB 16-14 at the break.

Totting up the points, I calculated that one player had scored all of Notts’ points – that was until I realised that they all has H3 printed on the front of their shorts – I still haven’t worked out what that was all about.

Into the 2nd quarter, after Hoods equalised, Catlow’s pink boots helped him leap to his own rebound and restore the narrow margin.  CoB’s defence then clicked into gear to pressure the Notts into conceding numerous times, with some  great combinations resulting in a number of Birmingham players registering points, particularly Jordan Dawes and Danny Williams towards the end of the quarter, to open up a much more comfortable 38-23 lead at half time.  And it could have been more, but Nottingham Hoods number 8 joined the action during the quarter, his distinctive but loosely tied locks flying in the face of CoB defenders (less Robin Hood and more Maid Marian to be honest).  This resulted in a foul and free throw point being conceded, although his long shot late in the quarter was closer to their usual targets in Sherwood Forest than COB’s basket.

During the break, the kids excitedly ran onto court to tread the ground their heroes had been playing on, as the announcer started the draw for the raffle.  How exciting, I thought, as he explained that the numbers on the programmes we had been handed would count as our raffle ticket numbers.  I remembered then that I hadn’t actually been handed my programme.  But there was only one prize, for £10, so it wouldn’t be an issue for me.  (Imagine what would have happened if the number drawn had been the one on the programme I had, that wasn’t mine).  The draw was made and the lucky number was ‘4’.  I continued preparing my notes as I waited for the winner to walk past me to collect their winnings, although I did slowly pull the program out of my notebook, just to confirm that it didn’t have the winning number ‘4’ on it.

Problem was – it did.

OK, this was slightly awkward.  I listened to the invisible little angel hovering to the right of my head and decided that I couldn’t claim this.

But as the announcers toyed with the idea of drawing another ticket, the little devil hovering to the left of my head whispered “Sunny, £10 minus £3 equals £7!”  And as it said on Notts kits by the sponsor’s logo – I’m lovin’ it!

Without further thought, I strode over to the announcer’s table and showed ‘my’ programme.

But the draw officiator was the big chap who had been collecting the money at the door.  “You got number 4?  But you came in later didn’t you?”

I replied sheepishly “Yeah, I found this on a chair by me – don’t worry about it.”

And I returned to my seat with the proverbial tail firmly between my legs, ignoring the little angel who had her arms folded and that ‘told you so look’ on her face.

So.  Third quarter, 38-23 to start with.

The quarter began with a misses from both teams, before a drive from Liam Sheridan set up CoB’s number 23 for a score, and after the Hoods replied, the same player scored a lunging basket in response.  What I thought was a dance down the side line was Dawes appealing for travelling by Notts.  It wasn’t given, however CoB still managed to dispossess the Hoods a number of times.   One of those was by Jarrett, to break unopposed to go for the big slam dunk followed by him hanging off the basket in celebration – which is when it came to him that the dunk had actually missed.  Coach Wilson was not impressed, and nothing further needed saying.

The net result was that the Hoods registering just 9 points to CoB’s 14, to stretch the overall lead to 20 points by the time ball was rolled in from the side line with just a  couple of seconds of the quarter remaining.  (Why do they do that again?)

The final quarter presented CoB with the opportunity to slow the game down to protect their lead, or to press in an attempt to stretch it further, and it’s a sign of their growing confidence that they chose the latter.  After coach Wilson had sportingly come on to court to wipe up some moisture that had been causing an issue, Sheridan scored from deep from a Williams assist, who then assisted again and scored in quick succession.  An apparent elbow from Little John (or some player from the Hoods team any way) seemed to go unnoticed by the referee but caused consternation in the CoB camp.

By now the big M’s on the Hoods’ kit were making me feel hungry, but luckily the match was won as David Malcolm added further points in reply to Hoods’ scores, and the under 18’s Arivelle Trout also put in a good showing, before Dawes added the final point from a free throw to complete a 72-45 victory.

As with the under 13’s match earlier, each match seems to be reflecting a new confidence and chemistry amongst the CoB players, and with a new team I guess the steep learning curve is expected.  From my perspective, the good work by the respective defences which can go unnoticed will be something I will be keeping a closer eye on as I understand the game more.

And at the point I’ve finished this report, I’ve repaid the debt, and bought three poppies today, so hopefully my repentance is complete.

Next week we have another home game, against Sheffield Hallam Sharks who hold a similar record to CoB, so promises to be competitive.  (And if I make it there, I’ll be buying ten match programmes!)