The Kent Crusaders II picked up a key 67-59 victory over London Thunder Lewisham on Saturday.
A significantly under strength Crusaders team was able to grind out a result behind 33 points from Elliot Bailey, a huge rebounding effort and player after player making big shots every time Lewisham rallied.
“I am so proud of these 7 guys today. They had every reason to give up or to make excuses but instead they played with grit, never gave up and stepped up when it matters. Their composure and maturity was fantastic. I thought Jeff Wadey’s leadership was instrumental for us also.”
Crusaders shooting was the story of the first quarter. With both teams starting in a zone, Crusaders held Lewisham scoreless for the first 4 minutes, while 3s from Khen Caballero, Bailey and James Harris gave Crusaders a 9-0 lead. After Lewisham but the lead to 9-5, the trio each connected again stretching the gap to 18-7. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter with Harris and Bailey hitting Crusaders 7th and 8th 3s of the quarter.
Lewisham started the recovery early in the second. A switch to man to man defence sparked a 12-1 run to take a 1 point lead. Bailey and Daniel Beard swung the momentum back to Crusaders, as they went into halftime leading 39-33 behind 17 points from Bailey.
Crusaders looked like they may run away with it when Bailey hit his 6th 3 of the game midway through the 3rd, going up 49-39. But back to back 3s from Fofanam started a 10-o run from Lewisham and the teams entered the final quarter all square at 51.
Crusaders turned up the defence another notch, holding Lewisham scoreless for the opening 5 minutes of the quarter while Crusaders racked up 8 unanswered points. Lewisham twice got the lead back to 5 but never seriously threatened as Crusaders hit their free throws and secured key defensive rebounds to hold on for the 66-59 win.
In addition to Bailey’s 33 points, veteran Harris and academy player Beard had 9 each.
Crusaders, who are now 2-2 in NBL4, have a week off before travelling to Norfolk on 21 October.