Aztecs Jags 67 – LT United 59
(9-7; 30-20; 48-43; 67-59)
Ollie Purvey 16; Arturs Vitins 14; Jarryd Adams 11; Matt Jessop 10
The last time the Aztec Jaguars faced LT United away it was a mismatch team, unfamiliar with each other, playing as such, and getting thoroughly beaten. This time it was on home soil and following two wins in the last three. The energy was different; their shooting accuracy was much improved and their game and clock management in the final minutes of the contest saw them home.
The Jags started well with good defence and aggressive play leading to two easy lay-ups for Colin Sawford. However, the game soon slowed as both teams struggled to execute on offence. The Jags were able to maintain the control but were not taking advantage of the work they were doing on the defensive end. Breaking the lack-of-buckets silence Matt Jessop popped in the high post for a 16ft jump shot, followed by the familiar sight of Rob Bell getting to the same spot, but taking the ball strong at the defence for a contorted lay-up. With LT’s No. 9 Baltulionis hitting a late three, the quarter finished 9-7 in favour of the Jags.
The second quarter started how the first did, but this time Arturs Vitins scoring the break-away lay-up. From there it was LT who took control, switching to a zone on defence and scoring a flurry of unanswered points from all spots on the court. They were playing the game through their big man, Bukys, and at first the Jags were struggling to find an answer to the spacing they were creating. However, a sign of the improvement the Jags have seen of late, they responded well, outscoring LT 19-4 over the next 6 minutes. Vitins, in perhaps his best game as a Jag, continued to bring his energy to the game, finishing his driving lay-ups and knocking down the open looks. If LT thought at any point they had an answer, Ollie Purvey would knock down a demoralizing three. Everyone ensured they were on the box score, with Gavin Baker and Jared Adams also scoring during the run, and Adams rounding off the quarter nicely with a deep three. The Jags led 30-20 at halftime.
The third quarter was more balanced, with each team going on short flurries, but for most of it LT not getting closer than 6 and the Jags not extending the lead to more than 12. For the Jags it was Adams and Purvey leading the threat, continuing to knock down their outside shots and thereby stretching the defence to open up the driving lane. Having missed several easy jump shots, Jessop was also able to get his eye in from closer in. But the boat was rocking; LT were slowly chipping into the lead and despite their continuous challenging of every refereeing call it was the Jag’s Coach Purvey that picked up the game’s only technical after questioning a no-call. He’s no Rasheed Wallace (Google it) so was this the kick the Jags needed? It was 48-43 going into the final quarter.
The Jags got the quarter started just as they needed – another Purvey drive and another Adams three, followed by two Jessop free-throws, and the Jags’ lead was back to 12. Their rotation defence was doing the job, squeezing space on the inside, but also getting out to the shooters. LT were staying in it, but two massive three-pointers from Sawford (the bank is open) and Vitins will have taken the wind out of any metaphorical sail. The Jags managed the clock for the final minutes and were able to ice the game with free throws.
Everyone scored, with contributions from Colin Sawford (9), Rob Bell (4) and Gavin Baker (3). Shots from outside the arc gave a boost to the team, but just as important lay-ups and quick break baskets kept the LT defenders on the move.
Coach Purvey’s assessment:
The team is thin on numbers just now, but team spirit is high, and everyone works incredibly hard for each other. The players’ understanding of their defensive duties is great as we have a very experienced roster, and they do not give in at any stage. The communication is a feature of the side, and they have found ways to get out of difficult situations without needing to resort to team talks in time-outs. We now need to stay fit and healthy for the remaining five games of the season.
Thursday 28th February 2019 at 8:15pm away to Woking Blackhawk Hunters in Division 1.