The Glasgow Rocks claimed their first win at the new Emirates Arena with an 88-85 victory over the Manchester Giants in their BBL Cup clash on Sunday.
In a dramatic finish the Giants had a chance to take the game to overtime but David Aliu missed a last gasp three pointer. The ex-Mersey Tiger had nailed two crucial threes in the 22 seconds to keep his team within touching distance.
Rocks guard E.J. Harrison proved the difference between the two sides as he top scored with 27 points and led his side magnificently with a virtuoso display. GB star Kieron Achara finished a single rebound away from a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
The first quarter was a scrappy affair, with neither team playing consistently. A wide open Achara slotted home from behind the arc to give the Rocks a 15-11 with 4.53 left in the quarter, but it was to be fully two minutes before another basket was scored.
David Watts, playing with a hand injury, hit back-to-back two pointers to tie the game before the veteran Harrison nailed one of four three pointers in the game to give the home side the advantage heading into the second quarter.
Last week, the Rocks let a convincing lead slip in the final stages of the first half and the same thing happened again on Sunday. After the Giants called a timeout with 4.46 left in the half, the defence stepped it up as they forced the Rocks to commit consecutive shot clock violations that highlighted a 19-5 run that saw Manchester take a 40-33 lead at the break.
If the first half was scrappy, the second half was anything but as both sides came out all guns blazing and the fast tempo lasted all quarter.
Achara, twice, Watts and Stefan Gill ended the quarter with a series of long range baskets, but going into the final stanza, it was the away side that just about had their heads in front.
Jeff Jones’ men had the better of the early exchanges in the final period, extending their lead to six points with a little over seven minutes left.
Of course, seven minutes is a lifetime in basketball.
Indeed, three minutes is a lifetime, for that is all it took for the Rocks to peg back the Giants. Harrison’s third three pointer f the game tied it at 75-75 before Bailey went 0-for-4 from the free throw line in a crucial period.
What could have been four points for Manchester actually became five points for the Rocks as Canadian forward Andrew Wedemire claimed the rebound in each of Bailey’s misses and converted them into a Harrison three pointer and a Gareth Murray lay-up.
With 22 seconds left the game seemed over as the Rocks were up by six points.
Cue David Aliu, so often the curse of the Rocks while at Mersey. The veteran hit two scintillating three pointers within 14 seconds to reduce the Glasgow lead to just a single point.
E.J. Harrison then scored the most vital of his 27 points as he nailed two free-throws to give his side a three point lead with six seconds left.
A busted coverage on the final play saw Aliu open in the corner, but his last chance effort bounced off the rim and saw the Rocks claim a nerve-wrecking victory.