Rodriguez leads unbeaten Mets as Longden eyes two lots of silverware for MMU Basketball
- MMU men's 2nd team defeat Sheffield Hallam 1st 90-56
- Captain Joe Longden eyes up Uclan clash: 'I think all that are involved in both the league and the cup know we are the two teams that will be fighting it out for silverware
- Mike Rodriguez and Jabar Bika lead a strong outing to keep the Mets undefeated
The unbeaten MMU 2nd team continued to show why they are frontrunners for this year’s Men’s Northern Tier 2 title.
The Mets eased past a travelling Sheffield Hallam side 90-56 on Wednesday at Platt Lane, even with Captain Joe Longden still being absent through injury.
The game started well for the Mets with Rylan Bawden finding Jabar Bika on a two-on-one fast-break to score the opening points of the game.
The Mets continued to add to the score-line as Gibraltar international Mike Rodriguez controlled the tempo from the off. The high-IQ guard was able to consistently beat his man off the dribble to open the floor up for his teammates on route to 14 assists.
The offence wasn’t the only thing flowing early for the home side, as a strong defensive effort forced six turnovers in the first four minutes from the visitors.
MMU began to hit the glass hard as Bika plucked back-to-back offensive rebounds on his way to the put-back finish.
Hosam Dosa also chipped in with a tough left-hand layup after wrong-footing his defender on the cross-key drive. He then added, a smooth bounce pass to the cutting Alp Guven as MMU closed out the quarter 28-12 up.
The 2nd quarter started slowly for the Mets as early turnovers and poor offensive execution saw them scoreless in the opening two minutes of play.
However, Sheffield Hallam failed to punish the Mets.
It was then up to Rodriguez to steady the ship, finding Bika with a tough pass out of the drive for the easy finish.
Bika kept on smashing the offensive boards which became a trend across the game for MMU, with all but two of their players picking up at least one offensive rebound in the game.
Bika led with a team-high nine offensive rebounds with a total of 26 for the Mets.
Next, backup centre Kai Delaney entered the game and made an immediate impact by taking a charge on the defensive end. He then added two points at the other end to complete a solid sequence as Bika got some well-deserved rest.
MMU began to go up the gears as Rodriguez found Fawaz Abiola with the outlet pass. Abiola finishing with the highlight dunk, sending the bench and supporters to their feet.
Energy continued to build as Finn Sweeting-Young rose high on the fast break but failed to convert as his dunk attempt cannoned off the back of the rim. Nevertheless, Dosa gathered the rebound and found the open Sweeting-Young under the rim for the easy two points.
The quarter ended with MMU leading 53-26.
At the half, club chairman Rhys Everett said: “It’s been an aggressive and energetic start from the boys, running fast-breaks and forcing turnovers.
“First half standout performances from Mike (Rodriguez) and Jabar (Bika), and a strong impact of the bench from Kai (Delaney) with a few tough finishes and a momentum switching charge.”
The third quarter started much the same with Bika again tormenting the offensive glass.
Rodriguez continued his fine play finding Bawden on the outlet pass for the easy finish. A reward for the latter’s hard work when running in transition.
It was now the turn of Rodriguez to receive a pass, as Bika grabbed another offensive rebound to find the guard open in the corner. However, Rodriguez failed to convert.
MMU continued to find the open man with Bawden and Dosa each having open looks from three, but both failed to convert. A shooting slump for the normally reliable pair.
Sweeting-Young stepped up with a steal as MMU finished the quarter 69-40 ahead.
The fourth quarter began quickly for the home side with Rodriguez pick-pocketing his matchup for steal before being fouled only five seconds into play.
Nonetheless, a poor run followed as Hallam pegged back the deficit starting the quarter 7-0. Coach Josh Perkins called a timeout.
Some stern words during the timeout lifted the Mets with Sweeting-Young getting another steal. The first-year wing continued to show heart as he hustled for loose balls and rebounds.
MMU continued to miss outside shots as their regular sharpshooter Bawden found himself unable to knockdown with his usual consistency.
It was back to Rodriguez to lift his teammate. The tricky guard faking a three-point shot on the closing defender, delaying as help arrived before swinging the ball to the corner where Bawden was found open to drain the three.
Bawden who entered the game shooting a remarkable 34% from three on the season then followed up with another made three. Going two-for-two in quick concession.
Sweeting-Young continued to hustle making a tough block on the Hallam fadeaway. He then followed with a tough finish on the offensive end before again adding another four points swiftly.
It was now Sheffield Hallam’s turn to call timeout to end an MMU 12-2 run with the scores at 81-49.
Out of the timeout, Sweeting-Young continued to pick his offence up scoring at will in the quarter. He lifted his side with 15 points in 18 minutes of action in the game.
Bika and Rodriguez continued to combine with the latter finding the big man in the post.
Delaney returned, throwing a highlight pass to the cutting Ed Castells who failed to finish the left-hand. However, the lengthy wing responded by getting a steal and hitting a floater.
Closing out the game, Hensley Brooks added to the score-line with another floater and Friday Balogun grabbed more rebounds, finishing with seven.
It was left to Dosa to dribble the ball out as the buzzer sounded for a 90-56 win for the Mets.
Post-game, 2nd team captain Joe Longden said: “We’re really happy with the result, after a poor performance in the Salford win and a long Christmas break.
“We were in need of a moral boosting game before we enter a tough end of the season and it’s good to see everyone being able to get valuable minutes under their belts.
When asked: “What were the keys to getting the win?”
Longden said: “Firstly, the energy from the team. We really got behind each other with a more positive mindset than last week against Salford.
“Secondly, a few key performances coming off the bench from Finn (Sweeting-Young), Kai (Delaney) and Friday (Balogun) helped us to push that bit further and really take control of the game before putting it to bed early in the second half.”
Despite an off day from the three-point line shooting 17% as team.
Longden said: “We have had a bit of a dry spell from three in this game and against Salford. I think it’s something we’ll look to focus on at training this Monday.
“Our two best shooters Rylan and Hosam had a bit of a dry patch but I think we know that their immense ability to shoot the ball won’t be gone for long due to the crazy talent they both have.
“As for the rest of the team, I think we all have the ability to score when needed. Which I think would be expected due to the level the players are performing at. However, I think we have understood our roles well. If a player goes on and doesn’t score but grabs ten rebounds, that can have a bigger impact for the team.”
Looking ahead to their next league game, the Mets face a tough road game away at title rivals UCLAN 1stteam.
Longden said: “UCLAN is certainly the rival for us this season. I think all that are involved in both the league and the cup know we are the two teams that will be fighting it out for silverware.
“They have a strong squad with some athletic players and have pulled off some great results.
“However, I know my team and I genuinely think if we stick together we will beat them and go on to do some great things this season.”
The unbeaten Met’s are currently in the running for both the league and the Men’s Northern Conference Cup as they travel to Newcastle away to play their third team in the Quarter Final next week.
In other news, MMU Men’s first team suffered a 77-72 defeat to Northern Premier playoff rivals Loughborough. However, the Mets playoff berth is as good as secured this season.