First Team Crash Out of Cup - But Continue Playoff Push

The Bulldogs First Team travelled to BT Lasers looking to qualify for the Suffolk Cup Final, but missing several key players, including leading scorer Lewis Tebbit through injury.

The depleted Bulldogs started well, controlling the tempo of the game whilst eking out a small lead behind a balanced attack of Ashley MacDonald, Billy Smith, Jason Sykes & Jimmy Steedman.

Steedman led the Bulldogs in scoring twice in three nights, ahead of the Bulldogs' guard trials for the Army National Team

However, with both Smith and MacDonald in foul trouble as the first half wound-down, Lasers made a 9-2 run to end the first half and take a two possession lead.

Youngsters Brandon Marshall and Patrick Laycock helped the Bulldogs to ramp-up their defensive intensity, while Steedman tied the game up with seven straight points, before ex-BBL forward Ryan Wilson took over the BT offence, canning a pair of thirty-foot bombs to open up a personal 23-10 run over the Bulldogs to close the third quarter with BT up 62-50.

Bulldogs again managed to have the better of their hosts in the final quarter - but couldn't muster a comeback, despite Steedman catching fire from range again, en route to his team-high 27 points, and Adam Maddison notching four straight post scores down the stretch, as Bulldogs crashed out 91-81.

Steedman was awarded player of the game, while three other players notched double-digit point totals (Smith - 16, Sykes - 13 & MacDonald - 11).

"It was a disappointing loss" said Coach Arron MacDonald "but the lads gave everything they had against a side who are in with a shout of winning the league and cup this season. As much as it's easy to wonder what would have happened with two full teams, I don't think I've had a full team available once in two seasons - so it's really a moot point."

"We just have to dust ourselves off and get on to the next one"...

Up next for Bulldogs was Colchester Bulls in the league, with the Bulldogs missing more of the first team squad than was available, youngsters Jim Walker, Josh Hales and Oli Cowling were called into the fold.

Bulldogs owned the opening minutes of the game, as crisp ball and player movement saw MacDonald, Smith, Steedman and Sykes contribute to a 10-2 run, however, as the Bulldogs rotated in their substitutes, Bulls began to get a foothold in the contest, and outscored their hosts 8-10 to close the quarter with Bury up 18-14, but momentum very much with the visitors.

A three from Cowling to open the second quarter brought no respite, as Bulls followed-up with an 18-1 run to take a double digit lead. A timeout from Coach MacDonald saw the starting group reinserted, with Maddison looking to control the paint, however, Bulls' forward Adeyeye found his range from the perimeter, as the guests maintained a ten point lead at the half.

Going into the second half, Coach MacDonald changed defensive tactics, looking to slow the visitors down, and while they held Bulls to just six points in the opening five minutes, they served only to build the lead of the guests.

With another timeout, Coach MacDonald pleaded with his charges to simply stick to the game plan at both ends and outwork their opponents - and believe that in doing so, they could cut the lead down. He was rewarded as Hales, Walker, Cowling and Laycock pestered the opposing guards, forcing turnovers, that saw numerous fast-break opportunities for the Bury side, with Walker and Steedman notching five points apiece in the closing minutes, momentum had swung back towards Bury, although the home side trailed 51-63.

Going into the final quarter, MacDonald went back to an experienced five-man unit, with the youngsters who had swung momentum defensively grabbing a much deserved rest. Bulls scored the opening points of the quarter to open up a ten-point lead, before the young quartet on the bench sought to give their more-experienced team-mates a boost with some very vocal support on the defensive end...

Even Coach MacDonald got in on the action, as the "Bench Mob" of Cowling, Hales, Walker and Laycock lent their vocal, energetic support to help fuel a fourth quarter run.

Bulldogs responded incredibly, holding the Bulls scoreless for seven minutes, whilst going on a 19-0 run to take firm control of the tie, while the sides exchanged scores in the final minutes, the Bulldogs had amassed an improbable comeback victory, winning 76-69 to continue their push for a playoff seed.

With every player having got on the scoresheet, and Steedman again leading the way (15) from MacDonald (14), Sykes (12) and Smith (9), Coach Arron MacDonald was simply unable to pick a Player of the Game...

"It was all of us." said Coach MacDonald, "It took too long to get there, but once it clicked, every one did their job and gave everything for the shirt."

"The young guys had a first half stuck in quicksand - everything that happened left them with that 'sinking' feeling... but they bounced back massively to swing momentum in the third - and then to step outside of what they wanted individually to vocally support their team-mates every possession, it's unreal. I've never seen a group of players who took so much pride in lifting their team-mates like that - it was superb."

"I said to the guys after the game, there's days that really make you wonder 'why' I do this, and there's days which just tell you 'why' you do it... somehow today was both - and the second half was the kind of performance we're going to look back and remember."

Up next for the Bulldogs is a trip to Colchester Cobras, knowing a win could all but seal a playoff spot for the second consecutive season.

Former Captain Terry Rose joined the Bulldogs for the post-game Player of the Game picture, as Coach MacDonald simply couldn't pick a single player...