UEL’s mens first team kicked off their campaign by beating a physical Essex side, who pushed them all the way, 83-61.
The East London side went in to this, their first game of the season, with high hopes of fighting for the title.
From tip-off Essex proved that they were going to be a competitive, physical opponent, for a UEL side predominantly made up of new faces, as the visitors rushed in to a five-point lead.
UEL appeared wasteful early in the first quarter, perhaps taking time to gel and find a rhythm with their new team-mates. As a time-out was called five minutes in to the quarter, the home team found themselves 12-5 down.
After the short stoppage, UEL brought it back with a quick barrage of points. Ikinwin scored a couple of free-throws, and Foulds came on to the court with two minutes to play and put three points on the score-board immediately.
With some high-intensity periods of play, UEL ended the first quarter with a three-point advantage, 22-19.
UEL started to turn on the class and extend their lead as the second quarter tipped off.
Essex’s Sadler was outstanding for the visitors in his attempts to keep them within touching distance of the free-scoring home side.
UEL went on to dominate the majority of the second quarter, and were notably counter-attacking at great speed and to great effect.
Their defensive work was rewarded with a couple of changes in possession. The buzzer went for half-time with UEL having opened up a significant gap, leading 47-33.
Essex made a courageous start to the third quarter, shutting the home side out for several minutes and reducing their deficit to five points.
Essex’s Grennan was especially making use of his height, scoring for the visitors on several occasions.
UEL’s Isenbarger came on to make things happen for the East London side, ensuring that as the third quarter drew to a close, they had a 10-point cushion going in to the final 10 minutes.
Going in to the final period of play, Essex tried to up the intensity and give UEL some questions to answer, however the home side had the answers for everything that was thrown at them, countering repeatedly and extending their lead.
Watson-Gayle scored a confident two points, giving UEL a deserved 20-point gap. As the team’s confidence grew, closing in on victory, the players were visibly bonding with their new team-mates, which was rounded off in the final minute with Olafe dunking to emphasise the blues’ dominance.
The final klaxon sounded with the score-board reading 83-61, giving UEL a deserved victory, and a spring-board to further success as the season progresses.