Re-invoking that long-lost Presbyterian work ethic, Ronan Joyce’s men’s firsts handed out a basketballing clinic to their Lancastrian counterparts on Sunday.
Complete with a floor slapping, fanny-pack-clad coach (insert corny American accent here) and a dunking five-foot-seven guard, heavy favourites Lancaster succumbed to the weekend’s white-rosed zeitgeist in a raucous atmosphere in the main hall.
Staunch defense laid the foundations for a surprise victory, masterminded by the tireless Joyce after a season of rebuilding finally bore fruit. Since winning “Team of the Year” in 2005/2006, the men’s firsts have faced a diaspora of key players. On Sunday, though, York played like the team of old, hassling, harrying their opponents, and converting on the offensive end.
Point guard Kelvin Cheng stood out for York and crashed the boards for an incredible 8 rebounds to go along with his 8 points, while the “Kazmanian Devil” Robert Kazimierowicz’s top-scoring 11 points included a deep three-pointer that emphatically sealed the win with ten seconds on the clock.
Although York never conceded the lead they established early in the first quarter, they never pulled more than ten points ahead of Lancaster. It gave the game an engrossing edge as possession and baskets were traded with a frequency reserved only for the pressure-cooker that is Roses.
“We came together as a team today, and it shows how far we’ve come,” said a jubilant Joyce.
The performances of centres Brendan Moran and Jean Paul Niyongabo were key to victory in the captian’s view. “The guys inside handled their big players particularly well, and the ability to rotate the squad was essential; everybody has worked so hard to get to a similar level and that made a massive difference today.”