Head coach Dan Richards was full of praise as new-look Mansfield Giants got off to a flying start to the season in the National Shield.
After an impressive 102-76 victory over York Vikings, Richards said: “I was delighted with the way we played. The guys have been working so hard over the summer, and it showed on the court.
“Everyone contributed, and it was a true team effort. The younger players came in and showed their worth to do an outstanding job.
“There are still a few areas where we need to improve, especially on the defensive end, but all in all, it was a great opening game.”
Back-to-back baskets from veteran big man Ben Coy saw the Giants open up the scoring, and although Vikings quickly responded with some strong inside play, youngsters Jack Halstead and Amari Williams entered the game to make an immediate impact, scoring four points between them to open up a five-point lead.
Again, the York outfit replied, this time with some sharp outside shooting, nailing four three-point shots. But Giants kept ahead with a steady stream of points from Liam Burton, Gary Collins and Nathan Halstead to win the first quarter 34-21.
Tim Dobson came off the bench catching fire as he hit three threes to open up a nine-point lead. And both Ben Morrison and Jacob Hall played some excellent defence as Vikings began to struggle to keep up with the young Giants team. Kane Sanders Baily came on to hit his first of three three-point shots as the Mansfield team went into the half-time break with a 52-39 lead.
Giants really stepped up their defensive intensity in the next quarter, holding their opponents to just 15 points. Further threes from Burton, Halstead and Sanders Bailey increased the lead and some fine unselfish play put them in a perfect position heading into the final period.
York did not quit and hit Giants with some unexpected long balls, perfectly working ‘back doors’ to catch Giants’ defence sleeping. But the hosts finished the game strongly with all five players on court at the end under the age of 18.
In the next round, Giants will travel away to take on Calderdale Explorers, who beat Newcastle Eagles U23s 82-75 in their opening match.