Turkeys progress in thriller against Ravens; Cavs beat Hoops

Ravens, Turkeys, Cavaliers and Hoops took to the floor in the first round of the 2024 Basketball Championship, Wolves and Jets having automatic advancement based on regular season record. Top game of the evening was a nail-biting contest between Ravens and Turkeys with strong swings for both teams. Ravens were in full control for the first half, proving most effective when they pushed the break and caught Turkeys in transition.

Miltos Provatakis and Ronan Thompson led the charge early on, Matthew Thompson finding impressive form in the latter stages of the half. Turkeys struggled to respond and frustrations started to show as halftime approached. Outside shooting from Chris Wolfendale gave some respite but Ravens stayed well ahead, 31-22, going into the half.

The third quarter changed the face of the game as Turkeys came out energised and caught the Ravens by surprise. Quick baskets from Wolfendale and Wig Bregazzi had the teams level in the opening minutes, while solid defensive efforts from Dave Boyle helped to shut down the Ravens offence. Logan Glover gave Ravens their only points of the quarter with an impressive mid-range fadeaway under strong defensive pressure, but it was Turkeys who continued to dominate. At the end of the third there had been an 18-point swing, Turkeys now leading the way 42-33.

Many teams would be left reeling from such a punishing third quarter but, in a sign of their growing maturity, Ravens regained composure and came out fighting in the fourth. A blistering few minutes saw Zak Mitchell and Cormac Ewan help draw the teams level, while lockdown defence from Seb Smith and Ronan Thompson disrupted Turkeys response.

Tied with less than a minute to go, Dave Boyle found a chink in the armour and hit a swish mid-range to push Turkeys ahead by 2. As the seconds ran low, Ravens had no option but foul to regain possession, putting Boyle on the free throw line where he extended the lead to 4. With 6.6 seconds on the clock there was no time for Ravens to comeback and the game was sealed 44-48, Turkeys advancing to the next round.

The other game of the evening saw Cavaliers progress against a spirited Hoops, who were missing key players Danielle Murphy and Becky Dunne. Hoops gave a strong performance from the outset with sisters Zoe and Gemma Kirkham leading the scoring in a hard fought first half – the latter hitting a buzzer beating 3-pointer to end the half and rev up the watching crowd. Mike Lewis made a solid impression, cutting up the lanes to slowly build momentum for Cavaliers. Solid shooting in the second half from Daniel Dunajewski and James Capelan pushed Cavs further in front and at the final buzzer they had the win, 59-35.

The Championship now goes on a two-week Easter break as teams prepare for the semi-finals to be held on Thursday 18th April in the NSC Main Hall. Old rivals Cavaliers and Jets will meet in a Championship game for the first time since the 2022 final, with tip-off scheduled for 19:00. Then at 20:30 current title holders Wolves will face league veterans Turkeys in the second semi-final. The winners of each game will progress to the arena court final on Thursday 25th April, tipping off at 19:30 in the NSC Main Hall.

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