HUDDERSFIELD Heat staged a great fightback but were still unable to stave off a 96-91 defeat in their English Basketball Division III opener against Loughborough Student Riders.
It’s the first time in three seasons that Heat have lost their opening fixture, but they were always likely to struggle after losing centre John Huggett and guard Aaron Allison prior to the game, which forced player-coach Eduardo Perez to rotate his squad.
Unfortunately, it was the first quarter which proved the difference between the sides, as Loughborough opened up at a frenetic pace, scoring at regular intervals to pull out a 30-17 lead.
But Huddersfield hit back hard in the second quarter, with Jason Swaine, Irving and Bigley combining for 24 points to cut Riders’ lead to just 50-45 at half-time.
Both teams tried to take control at the start of the second half with Heat grabbing the lead, which changed hands six times before Tom Ward and John Stewart kept the students ahead by just three points at the end of the third quarter.
It was more of the same in the final period until a 6-0 run by the Students finally broke Heat’s resistance, and despite some late flourishes by the home side, the Riders held on to take the win.
Joe Irving was once again Heat’s leading scorer with 28 points, backed up by Swaine and Bigley, who each netted 20 points. But despite the defeat, coach Perez remained positive.
“I think we did make a few mistakes and did not execute as well as we can do, and certainly there were defensive mistakes in our play.
“However, taking all that into account, we only just lost, so there is plenty to be positive about. Now we have a lot to work on in training before we look forward to a tough trip to another strong side, Sheffield Sabres, on Saturday.”
Huddersfield Heat 91: Andrew (6), Irving (28), Woodward (6), Gray (10), Bigley (20), Walker (1), Treen (0), Swaine (20), Perez (0), Kozlowski (0), Stanger (0).
Loughborough Student Riders 96: Ward (34), Gould (6), Cope (8), Carroll (6), Stewart (15), Hadley (0), Bishop (4), Flower (13), Pinchin (0), Anderson (6), Daley (4).