Stags march on to semi-finals

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The Stags’ remarkable season continued with an excellent performance in Edinburgh against top of the Lothian League side Edinburgh Lions to progress to their third Chairman’s Cup semi-final in the last four years.

It is almost a year since the Stags were last beaten, in all competitions, when they lost out narrowly in March of 2011 in the Chairman’s Cup semi-final.

Understandably spirits are high as they look to emulate the team of 2008 and take the trophy back to Banchory again.

As the teams lined up for tip-off the onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that it was a Stags home game as both their players and supporters outnumbered the Lions.

As always they were being whipped into a frenzy by head cheerleader and game psychologist Nathan Edwardson, who himself played an exciting cameo on court towards the end of the game.

The Stags had done their homework and matched up well on defence against the free-scoring Lions with Coach Scott Williams opting to man mark the Lions’ top scorer very closely.

The first quarter was entertaining with both teams shooting very well and the Lions held a slender 22-21 point lead after the first 10 minutes.

Scott Williams showed that he was as adept on court as he was in a coaching role and his good shooting began to give his team control of the game as they established a lead they were never to surrender.

With Matt “Spiller” Halliwell and Karim Nassar taking the ball up court, the press employed by the Lions was never going to provide turnovers and the two guards provided the Stags shooters with plenty of scoring opportunities. Stuart Gray who again excelled on defence also caused huge problems at the other end where it seemed the only way to stop him was by fouling.

Although the Stags lead was only five points at half-time there was a confident air about the team, as they felt they had taken the best that the Lions could throw at them and with their strength on the bench they should go on to win.

The Lions were resilient though and the Stags had to continue to be vigilant particularly when they had their lead cut from 12 points down to 5 early in the fourth quarter.

Spiller Halliwell then hit three, 3 pointers and with David Hughes and Ray Thomson also scoring 3s the crisis was over and the Stags eased to a well-deserved victory.

As well as the Stags players already mentioned there were excellent performance from Dave Rendall, Mike Wyness, Glen Fotheringham, Neil Dolton, Mike Reilly and Colin Pavey. Top scorer was Stuart Gray and  MVP was Matt Halliwell.

The Stags will now look forward to a home tie in the semi-final of the Chairman’s Cup and the Grampian Cup Final both of which will take place later this month.