Men’s Basketball: the most nail-biting game of the season

Image courtesy of UKC Basketball Club | Facebook

On Wednesday 4th December, University of Kent (UKC) Men’s Basketball had their biggest match this season against undefeated Greenwich University. Having played Greenwich earlier on in the season, winning 82-74, Kent battled out in a tense encounter. To be promoted to the higher division, Kent came out of the blocks fighting, aiming to take home the British University College Sport (BUCS) win.

The Sports Centre was filled with spectators, with every bench space occupied by a supporter. A quiet hush fell over the Sports Hall as the players finished their warm-up and got into position on court. With the timer set, the game went underway with Kent in white and Greenwich in blue.

The first point went to Kent, a layup scored by their 10, Alfie Murray, within the first ten seconds. It was a solid start, especially after 5, Denzel Kazembe, received two free throws earlier on in the first quarter. However, those two free throws were matched by Greenwich, making the game a close call for its entirety. Yet, Kent managed to keep possession high for the quarter.

Kent attempted many mid-range shots in the first quarter. Most shots missed the target by a landslide, but that did not dampen the spirits as they brought the accuracy back in the rest of the match. A strong quarter for Kent, as their defence proved to be no match for the away side.

Highlights from the first quarter included: two baskets from Kent 11, Ed Medcalf; an epic mid-range shot from Greenwich’s 8, matched by another mid-range shot from Kent’s 11 just before the buzzer. Kent’s 5 Kazembe was awarded eight free throws throughout the first quarter, in which he scored 6 out of the 8 opportunities, demonstrating precision from Kent. End of quarter score was 24-18 to Kent.

Kent went into the second quarter expecting to dominate, but Greenwich had different plans. Possession was equal in contrast to the supremacy Kent had at the beginning. Kent’s 2, Odur, started the quarter with a successful bucket, yet Greenwich’s 2 reciprocated this with a basket of his own. Both teams were re-energised and meant business.

Putting up a fight, Greenwich’s 7 and 8 both scored baskets in a small-time frame, bringing the score up to 28-26. Gaining in on Kent, the interception against Greenwich’s passes became slicker as Kent’s 14, Tim Konadu, scored, boosting the team’s morale.

Kent lost accuracy slightly, as 20, Chen Liu, attempted three shots, each of which bounced off the basket. The score attempts were less successful until Liu threw his fourth basket and it flew in. But, was it enough? Two of Greenwich’s shots sailed into the basket as the score switched 32-33 to Greenwich.

A struggle for the ball between Kent’s 4, Joel Osei, and Greenwich’s 6 ended up with both players on the floor, indicating that determination was fuelling the teams’ passion. The quarter was tough for both sides, the lead constantly changing with every basket. But Kent took the lead once more with 12, Divante Malcolm, scoring a three-pointer, bringing them to 39-38. The 6 for Greenwich placed up a fight against Kent, popping in a brace, which Kent matched before the half time buzzer. The half time score was 42-40 to Kent.

Both teams were pumped after the half time break with Kent scoring the opening basket yet again, achieved by 11 Medcalf. The game resumed with Kent dominating, scoring three baskets against the opposition. The crowd were on Kent’s side, the chanting of “defence” taking off with a roar. Two more baskets to Kent brought them ten points ahead of Greenwich, 52-42. Greenwich’s 7 committed a foul against Kent, his fourth of the fixture. One more and he must leave the game.

The struggle for the ball became fiercer than before, players were knocked on both sides, and some sliding onto the floor in desperation for a touch of the ball. Kent had the edge of possession, scoring two for every single scored by Greenwich. A memorable moment played out as Kent’s 11 Medcalf slingshots the ball to 2, Jonathan Odur, at the other end of the pitch, who then scored.

Greenwich caught up as they nabbed a basket, capitalising on Kent two missed free throws. A score from Kent’s 11 Medcalf was met by three consecutive mid-range shots from Greenwich’s 8. The game at this point was neck and neck, every basket Kent scored was met by an equally successful basket from the opposition. Sweat dripped from the players’ faces as they fought for possession.

Greenwich’s points were achieved predominately by their 6 and 8, the driving force of the team. There were moments of frustration that affected Kent’s play where too many players went for basket without taking an extra second to perfect accuracy of shots.

A shot from Kent’s 10 Murray brought the team into the lead by just two points. But, as the buzzer was about to siren, a score from Greenwich’s 6 brings the teams back into even terms with the final quarter approaching. The third quarter score was 67-67. Ten minutes left to achieve victory.

The crowd stood on their feet; video cameras pulled out to capture the action. The once-quiet room was filled with cheers as the audience rooted for Kent on their home ground.

Kent yet again score the first basket by Kent 1, Behrad Bakhtiari. But Kent soon realised that there was no time left for celebration yet. A miss from Greenwich. A miss from Kent. As Kent’s 2 Odur misses another shot, one of the team members on the bench shouts “relax” to his teammates. After a tough battle for the ball, Kent’s 1 Bakhtiari scores yet again and receives a free throw, which he also scores.

The “defence” chants roared louder, the noise deafeningly filling the room. A miss from Greenwich is redeemed shortly after in a moment of desperation. The determination from Greenwich’s 6 increased every second as he claims the ball as his own. Kent do all they can to defend, but he dodged past them. As Kent continue to work as a team, Greenwich relied on 6 for the baskets. Greenwich took the lead, 74-72.

The chanting changed to “UKC”, an attempt to boost spirits. It takes a moment to kick in as Kent miss two free throws, but the team regains themselves as Kent’s 5 Kazembe is successful in scoring two penalties. The ball possession constantly switches. Within the space of ten seconds, the ball switches from Greenwich to Kent, back to Greenwich, and back to Kent, ending with Greenwich’s 6 on his back. A basket from Kent, a miss from Greenwich and another 2 points from Kent bring the team back in the lead, 78-76. But it does not last as two free throws bring Greenwich back on level terms with Kent. Three more baskets from Greenwich against Kent’s additional single brings the score 83-80 to Greenwich. It looks like Greenwich have the win until two free throws and two more baskets are scored by Kent. The match ends 86-86, pushing the match into overtime.

The crucial fifteen minutes. A rallied-up audience standing on the benches ready to watch the action. Overtime begins with Kent taking the first point yet again after the short break, this time by 2 Odur. 91-86.

The crowd heckle at Greenwich as they take their free throw, in an attempt to distract the player. He misses the first time, but scores despite the crowd. Then, another point to Greenwich and a miss from Kent bridges the gap 91-90 to Kent. Greenwich’s 8 and 6 are riled up, and they miss the next two attempts at a basket. This pushes Kent’s 5 Kazambe to score. The crowd goes wild as the score gap widens yet again. There is one minute, and thirty seconds left.

Greenwich’s 6 started with the ball. His face, filled with frustrations and determination, hardens as he dodged past the Kent players down the length of the court. He went for the shot but missed by inches. A foul action during his attempt to score awards a free throw to Greenwich. Taken by 7, who misses in his first attempt. The spectators cackling again as they wait for him to miss the next shot. The throw fails through the air, the ball bounces against the basket. There was a cheer as the shot looks as though it has missed. Sadly, it fell into the bucket, awarding Greenwich a much-needed point.

Kent’s determination increased even more so as Kent’s 5 Kazembe snatched the ball. He goes for a shot but was intercepted by Greenwich’s 6. He drives it back down, scoring. The crowd groan in frustration.

Both teams were even, almost making the score go into triple digits, the score 93-93. A successful two free throws is taken by Kent’s 30. Forty seconds left on the clock. Kent were in the lead, but Greenwich’s 6 scores yet again. It appeared that overtime was to finish with another draw.

Until Greenwich’s 8 was awarded a free throw. Overtime is neigh. If he gets it in the basket, Kent’s chance of winning is low. The audience hooted yet again, for their final time. But, when 8 took his shot, the cackles were not enough. He is successful, the teams far from tied.

An uproar commenced within the audience. Declarations of “it’s all over to Kent” are made. There was ten seconds left on the clock, passing too quickly as Greenwich’s 6 slows down the game in an attempt to time waste. As the final buzzer sounds, it was Kent who finish with the ball. At this point, it was too late to change the final result, 98-95 to Greenwich.

Kent stroll off the pitch, but pat each other on the back, congratulating each other on an electrifying game. Arguably, Kent had higher possession of the ball and better defence, but Greenwich piped them to the post due to their successful mid-range shots and standout performers. Although Kent dominated the scoring through layups, Greenwich’s baskets are what led them to win.

Michael Boutros, former President of Basketball, stated after the match: “It was a solid game, the whole game came out with energy. The other team had their game of the season, we struggled with offence, but we still played extremely well”.

Other than the loss to Greenwich, Kent have remained undefeated in BUCS and the BUCS Cup. According to Vice President, Alfie Murray, the team are “on track to be undefeated in the local league, and we are in the quarter-final of the BUCS Cup”.

Spectators should be excited to see more of Kent Basketball's team spirit and intense matches.