St Mirren’s Junior Men fought back from 16 points behind to squeeze past their Fair City rivals and claim a crucial National League win.
The Saints boys were in confident mood after a good win last week against Glasgow Rens but knew they would have to be at their best to secure an away win against a strong Perth side sitting a few places above them in the league.
And so it proved.
Right from the tip-off, Perth sprung a full-court press and played the game at a frenetic pace, which the Buddies struggled to cope with.
The visitors found it a test just to get the ball over half-way, never mind set up any attacks.
Perth went on a 5–0 run, stopped only by a three-pointer from Michael Grimsley, which was his last contribution in the match as he then limped off injured.
An early time-out to stop the rot was ineffective as the excellent hustling defence from Perth continued to pay dividends and they closed out the opening quarter 29–13 ahead.
By the start of the second period, Saints were getting to grips with their opponents and launched their own counter-offensive.
Some great inside work from Mark Shankland and Jordan Mathieson generated 13 points between them as Saints won the quarter 16–10, to leave them 10 points down at the break.
A positive half-time team talk made some minor changes to the Paisley lads’ zonal defence and this immediately paid dividends, with the Perth team now having to settle for outside shots which reduced their scoring rate and allowed Saints to get their running game going, with Andrew Hobson and rookie Matthew Cochrane scoring six points each.
A fourth foul midway through the quarter on St Mirren point guard Fraser Black provided an opportunity for rookie Kieran McKay to step into the game at a critical time.
The replacement’s excellent passing meant there was no change to the momentum and another five points on the board from Shankland narrowed the deficit to only three.
The final quarter saw the re-introduction of the Perth full-court press but the Saints’ improved passing game exposed their weaknesses and allowed Hobson to score another six from fast breaks to give St Mirren a four-point lead with 90 seconds left on the clock.
A late flurry of baskets from both sides saw Perth close to within a point but their last-ditch attempt at a winning score lipped out to confirm a remarkable win for St Mirren.
“What a game”, said Saints coach Drew Grimsley. “We were just not ready to play from the start, which all stemmed from a poor warm-up.
“All credit to the team for showing great character.
“It was a fantastic effort from McKay and Cochrane – both in their rookie year – as they improve with every game and showed great composure in pressurised situations.”