Six Vanbrugh players managed to overcome the might of James College to secure their place in Durham on March 1st. It was a game that was characterised by the sterling individual efforts of Francis Sobowale for Vanbrugh and Tom McAuliffe for James.
There was a blistering tempo to the early stages of first quarter as both Vanbrugh and James put points on the board early. Both McAuliffe and Sobowale were making baskets for fun for their respective colleges, with Sobowale making a particular impressive three pointer for Vanbrugh.
In the first quarter, there was nothing to separate either side, as Vanbrugh and James both responded to conceding baskets by going up the other end of the court and scoring their own. At the end of the first quarter, James held a narrow 16-15 lead, with McAuliffe scoring half of James’ points.
In comparison to the first quarter, the opening stages of the second quarter were a lot less frantic. Alvin Tsoi was attempting numerous long range efforts for Vanbrugh, but unfortunately for his college, his shots were largely wasteful as he failed to convert the vast majority of his three point efforts.
The introduction of Steven Aung for Vanbrugh in the second quarter gave them added impetus in attack, as he quickly made a basket followed by a coolly dispatched three pointer. Despite this, McAuliffe was still running the show for James, making a series of baskets that kept them within touching distance of Vanbrugh’s score. The first half finished with Vanbrugh holding a narrow 32-29 lead.
However, the second half saw Vanbrugh pull away from James. Sobowale became the stand out player on the pitch, effortlessly winning points on his own accord for his side. After setting up Hoffman Agoston, Sobowale then went on to score six points of his own, with two of his baskets characterised by some powerful drives through the heart of the James defence.
Towards the end of the third quarter bizarre scenes interrupted the match as Aung confronted several James players over an official’s decision that he seemed to take issue with. Throughout the quarter, James remained in touch with Vanbrugh, despite trailing them for the vast majority of it.
Simon Baron in particular impressed in the third quarter as McAuliffe’s influence on the game seemed to be dwindling. Baron scored eight points in the quarter, including a nicely lofted three pointer just after the half time break. The third quarter finished 47-42 to Vanbrugh, who were hoping that they could finally shake off James as they went into the fourth and final quarter of the match.
The final quarter opened with both colleges making some relatively easy baskets. After wasting numerous three point attempts, Tsoi’s persistence from long range positions seemed to be paying off as he calmly slotted home a three pointer to give Vanbrugh some breathing space. Moments later, Sobowale pulled off an exquisite full court pass to Tsoi, who under no pressure whatsoever, missed a simple basket, much to Sobowale’s dismay at the other end of the court.
James also missed easy chances, chances which could have helped them claw back into the game. Sam Lindley, after dispossessing Sobowale drove down the left side of the court but missed a simple basket after doing all of the hard work.
After calling a timeout, Vanbrugh managed to pull away thanks to Tsoi making three consecutive free throws. Despite his long range shots being largely wasteful, Tsoi was consistently clinical with his free throws throughout the match. McAuliffe managed to pull five points back for James in the final minutes of the match, but despite his best efforts, Vanbrugh ended the game as victors, beating James 64-53.
After the game, Francis Sobowale, Vanbrugh captain, spoke to Nouse telling us, “It was a good win for Vanbrugh. We only have around five or six players for the entire year. It’s pretty amazing that we made it to the final. I want to say a big congrats to the team for turning up every Sunday, every Saturday, whenever we had a game.”
Meanwhile, a disappointed Frederick Brown, James captain and coach, offered his thoughts on the match, “We came out with a result that we didn’t want today, and we’ve probably played one of our best games today, in terms of individual and team performances. I think the team we were playing really stepped up today, we were just unfortunate not to get the result we all really wanted.”
Vanbrugh: Aung, Sobowale (C), Tan, Sackey, Tsoi, Agoston.
James: Lindley, Kamara, Baron, Larkin, Dalgleish, Paguet, Paton, McAuliffe.
Player of the Match: Francis Sobowale.