Coventry Uni basketball team wins Varsity Trophy against Warwick

Hard-earned: The Coventry University side celebrate with the Varsity trophy.

Coventry University’s basketball team followed up last month’s 65-61 Varsity win over Warwick with a disappointing 96-65 defeat in the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championship Cup to Premier League outfit Oxford University last Wednesday.

The defeat at Oxford is a disappointing end to a fabulous season for Coventry that has had American head coach Brian Porth waxing lyrical about the future of the University’s basketball team.

Porth, who coached the university side to eight wins and three losses in all competitions this season, said gaining promotion to the BUCS Premier League from Division 1A has to be the goal for next season after finishing runners-up in their current league for the second year running. Writes Adam Manning…

“This season is an absolute step in the right direction for Coventry” insisted the 25-year-old.

“We had goals at the beginning of the season and we were able to come together and achieve many of those.  It was hardly an easy task, but the players became more and more committed as the season wore on.”

“While the game against Oxford was a disappointment for us, it is the type of game that we should expect to be competing in every season.  So, in the end hopefully we can learn from the experience, and the season as a whole, grow during the off-season as a team and come back stronger next October.”

Although head coach Porth had one eye on the Oxford game ahead of the Varsity face-off against Warwick, everyone else’s attention was solely on victory over Coventry’s neighbours up the A46.

There was a carnival atmosphere inside the Coventry Sports Centre on Sunday 13 February as hundreds of fans from both Coventry and Warwick turned up to cheer their team on to victory.

The two sides went into the game without their top scorers, Coventry were without Franco Kouagnia due to National League commitments, whilst Warwick talisman Tadas Jonusaukas had family commitments.

But Coventry were boosted by the surprise inclusion of current Leicester Warriors and ex-Coventry Crusaders guard Stephen Danso as he waived National League commitments to play in the game.

Both sides spent the first ten minutes of the game finding their feet as it finished 10-11.

Another ex-Coventry Crusader Joe Francombe ran the boards well for Warwick early on, hitting three lay-ups in the hole to put his side 4-8 ahead.

Seconds later Kamen Karmenov nailed an audacious 3-pointer much to the delight of the Warwick contingent, but Coventry provided a strong response as Jacob Akinoso followed up a Stephen Danso effort before the latter drew a foul from Warwick player/coach Tom Care to boost Coventry up to 10-11 at the interval.

Warwick held their lead up until midway through the second quarter as Dan Uznys capitalised on two turnovers to make it 12-17. But Coventry’s first 3-pointer of the game by Tom McGregor soon propelled his side into an eight point run to see Coventry leading 27-21 with less than a minute to go until half time.

With 0:28 on the clock, Coventry forward Ryann Samuel was forced to watch from the sidelines for the remainder after aggravating a knee injury that had kept him out for five months as he slipped trying to stop ex Crusaders team-mate Francombe from executing a field goal.

The half ended as Karmenov’s illegitimate block couldn’t stop Coventry’s Dimitar Kovachev from nailing his lay-up, and Kovachev duly applied the free throw bonus point to take the scores to 29-23 with 10 seconds on the clock.

Warwick still had time to have the last say of the half though as towering guard Uznys raced down the stretch to plant two points in the basket to go into the break with an entertaining 29-25 score line.

Coventry soon opened up an 11-point gap, one of the highlights seeing Kasey Onwaha on the offensive rebound from Danso’s effort after he stole from Francombe in the middle of the stretch.

After a time out Warwick came back more clinically as they capitalised on cheap turnovers by the home side, first Francombe raced clear of the pack for a composed lay-up before a double-salvo from Uznys sent Warwick on a 6-point run to drag the scores to 45-43, only for McGregor to nail a 3-pointer with 0:29 left to send the home side into the final quarter ahead at 48-43.

Both sides showed character in the final ten minutes as Coventry did enough to hold on to the win, whilst Warwick pushed their rivals right until the last second, something that was evident as Ashley Payne-Reid they grabbed two points on the buzzer.

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