In a highly anticipated encounter, with perennial finalist Forestville at Wayville on Saturday, the North Adelaide Men, without star import Alex Starling, prevailed 95-82 in what was an excellent team effort over four tough quarters.


The game started with Aric, Adam, Ray, Brad and Leroy taking the floor against the highly rated Forestville team, with very clear instructions on what was required to come away with the win. Brad got us off to a good start with an early “3” pointer and the early lead, followed by a Ray Harding “3” and the boys were up 6-4 with a couple of minutes gone. Despite some very close defence, Aric found his way to the hoop for a layup, Leroy hit a jumper and Adam had an excellent tip in for “2”, on an Aric miss to lead 12-9 at the half way mark. Forestville then had a little run of their own scoring the next 5 points before Coach Hawkes called a time out and had to make a substitution with John Wernham replacing Adam, who had 2 fouls. Ray then hit his second “3”, followed by John and Aric making layups, and it was 19-18 our way with about four minutes to go. The next few minutes was the “Ray Harding show” as he connected on his third 3, drove to the hoop for a layup over the Forestville defence and dished out a couple assists to John and Aric!! He finished the quarter with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and 2 blocked shots with the scores tied at 27 all.


The 2nd started slowly for us, with Forestville doing the early running, but defensively we were doing well. It was almost 3 minutes gone before Ray hit a jumper to make it 29-31, getting the scoreboard ticking over again. That got momentum back in our favour with Leroy and Aric (3 pointer) scoring, before Ray again got involved with an excellent tip in off a Brad miss followed by a lay-up for a three point lead with less than four minutes to go (37-34). Leroy, John and Aric then found ways to score, keeping plenty of pressure on the opposition, before Adam finished off the quarter with two successful free throws for a 45-43 lead at the main break.  Statistically the teams were very close in every category, rebounds 23-22; turnovers 11-12; steals 4-4, and the expectation was that would continue for the remainder of the game.


The 3rd started with a Forestville score, before Aric, Leroy and Ray hit jumpers, then Brad was successful on two free throws and the Boys had a narrow lead (53-51) with three minutes gone. The next few minutes was basket for basket with Brad and John scoring for us and the score was 57-56 with just less than five minutes on the clock. The rest of the quarter was all Rockets as we outscored them 15-3 and took a 13 point lead into the last, off the back of some wonderful basketball and scoring from Aric (one big dunk), Leroy and Darcy and five successful free throws from Ray, Aric and Leroy. Three quarter time score was 72-59 with what was potentially a match winning lead.


Forestville started the last scoring the first 5 points, but to their credit the Boys never wavered. Brad hit two big “3’s” in reply and with three minutes gone the score was 78-64. Again the next few minutes were dominated by defence with both sides making substitutions and changing tactics in an effort to make something happen but scores were few and far between. The margin did get back to 10 on a Forestville run, but we always seemed to have a response through Adam, Leroy, John and Ray maintaining a double digit lead 88-78 with just less than two minutes to go. Forestville pushed up the floor and managed to get it to 7 points at one stage but fouls were the order of the day and when required the Boys went to the foul line and made the necessary free throws.  Final score was 95-82 in a morale boosting encounter.


Statistically Ray Harding had arguably his best game in red and white with 23 points (at 57%), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocked shots. Leroy led the way in rebounding with 12, ably supported by Adam with 9, Brad with 8 and John with 6. As a team we outrebounded them 48-40, shot better (45% to 41%), had less turnovers (20-23), more steals (11-6) and even more blocked shots (3-1), so a good night. But any celebration was subdued with the job half done and South at Hillcrest on Sunday. 


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