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James Nottage has published 20 articles

B-ballers come close, but no cigar

James Nottage beats the frost while watching Oxford University Basketball Seconds take on their Light Blue rivals at a humid Iffley Road
James Nottage on Sunday 22nd January 2012
The match was fiercely competetive
Photograph: Ben Bronselaer

It’s hardly the Staples Centre but on Wednesday a humid Iffley Road sports hall played host to a scrappy and compelling basketball contest between the Oxford and Cambridge second strings. The two sides stayed within ten points of each other for the entire game, which went first to overtime then to a frenetic and extremely rare double overtime period, after which Cambridge prevailed by 68 points to 63.  
Over the first three quarters the dominance gradually moved towards the Light Blues, who had a weak first quarter. Cambridge improved in the second quarter and were the more impressive side in the third, but the game was still tight. It seemed inevitable that the fourth quarter wouldn’t be the end of things and a Cambridge basket with eleven seconds to go took the game into overtime. 
Things took a decidedly manic turn from here. Ludicrous three-pointers, breathtakingly cynical fouling, the Cambridge coach (suited and booted, and strutting up and down the line all game long) in a Martin O’Neill-style crouch, and time-keeping errors kept a growing crowd (made up of curious powerlifters, squash players, rowers and other Iffley through-trade, giving a community feel to proceedings) on their toes. When once again Cambridge levelled the score making it 57-57, this time with a ridiculously tight 4 seconds left, it nearly blew the roof off the place. After that it seemed fated that they would not be denied, and this time it was Oxford who were chasing throughout the second overtime period, and were ultimately unable to keep up.  
It’s been a transitional year for the seconds, with everyone having to get used to playing together, thus explaining the slow start. Chemistry appears to be growing however, and running the side at the top of the BUCS League so close, and indeed leading them for most of the game, can only bode well for the rest of the season. There’s plenty of talent in this side, with the diminutive Steve Nash look-a-like James Peters repeatedly scything through the defence, and Andy Hoyal impressing by keeping his head when all around were losing theirs in the overtime period. Hence, the team can look forward to a Varsity rematch with confidence, and every chance of a different and more pleasing result.