THE Basingstoke Blizzards basketball team maintained their challenge for promotion as they beat joint leaders Yateley Silverbacks 81-61.

Rob Gerrard was talked into playing by coach Marcel Mavronicholas, even though he was nursing a fractured collarbone from before Christmas, as the Basingstoke team turned up with only five players for the tip-off of this all important clash. Three more were on the way after work commitments.

Having taken to the court with a weakened starting five, the Blizzards still started well, taking the lead and holding a 6-2 advantage after four minutes – when the coach sent the latecomers in.

The defence held up really well against Yateley’s giant twins, the seven foot Vaughan brothers. Good screens saw the home side’s man defence struggle and Basingstoke pulled away for a comfortable 19-8 first quarter lead.

At the start of the second quarter, fast breaks from defensive steals put the Blizzards up 27-8 then 33-12. The home side upped their game but, at the half-time buzzer, were still 16 points down 38-22.

In the second half, Basingstoke extended their lead to 47-25 and by the end of third quarter had built up a handsome 64-41 lead.

That helped them to cruise to a victory which saw them go joint second in the Wessex League.

Coach Mavronicholas said: “The team played really well and they did even better controlling themselves when things got pretty agitated in the second half.”

The Blizzards’ next games are away on Tuesday and Wednesday with their next home game at Queen Mary’s College against Woodley Thunder on Tuesday January 22.