Skipton retain title after a tough battle
SKIPTON have successfully defended their Division One title after shrugging off the league re-draft, the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, and a last-gasp challenge from Mayside.
Matt Sawbridge’s side had to fight until the dying minutes to win 67-59 against an improved team who had threatened them since the start of the season.
But win they did, and while they let the opposition get several runs against them, it did not matter come the sweet end.
Transferred former Skipton star Jason Hooper once again led the Mayside purples, who fired away four three-pointers within a clinical first quarter to leave the champions 16-21 down.
The champions pressed on after resumption and some new-found composure allowed them to pull away before half-time – 37-28.
Island captain Aaron Walden was impressing throughout the court and nimble youngster Louis Hunter was also making valuable contributions.
Following a less-inspired third quarter for Skipton, just one point split the sides and it was anyone’s game once more.
But a superbly co-ordinated attack led to coach Sawbridge firing Skipton another three clear and they continued to chip ahead, answering the plentiful fouls with precise free-throw shooting, to run out winners.
Included in Walden’s 23-point haul were 11 successful free-throws from 14, while Hunter scored 16 with a perfect four from four.
But it was not easy work against a Mayside team as Hooper, at 33 points, five ‘threes’ and six foul-shots from seven, shouldered their scoring.
‘I’m ecstatic – it’s nice to win the league again and it’s been a couple of years for me personally,’ said Sawbridge after realising their head-to-head record gives them an unassailable lead with one week left.