– Tim Long contributed with this report

The University of Lincoln basketball team, the Lincoln Lakers, are competing for the very first time in the Lincolnshire Basketball Association (LBBA) handicap tournament, as they aim to match the best teams in Lincolnshire.

The competition involves teams from all across the county playing with a handicap, meaning they begin every game on a certain number of points according to their ability.

The tournament is already underway, with the Lakers starting their games as normal after being awarded a zero handicap.

The team started by outscoring the Spalding Devils 48 – 38 in the opening round, but the Lakers suffered a defeat due to Spalding’s 30 point head start.

Lakers captain, Matty Barwell, was proud of the team’s performance but not surprised by the end result.

“All the players performed really well,” Barwell said. “We kept our heads, got on with the task as best we could and played a lot of really good basketball, both on offence and defence.

“Most basketball games finish with just a few points difference, so to have to make up a 30-point margin was going to be a near impossible task.

“Obviously the opposition had a vested interest to keep the ball for as long as possible, whereas we had to rush our offences to try and get the ball in the basket quickly.

While the defeat means the Lakers miss out on the LBBA Cup, the confusing format of the competition means that they now move into the quarter-final of another cup—the LBBA
Plate. If the Lakers progress they could end up in the final of the Plate at the end of April.

Barwell says the Lakers, who hold a 3-1 record in their division of the Midlands Conference this season, wanted to play more games and test themselves against different types of opposition.

“A lot of the players are a fair bit older so I think we have the edge on most teams when it comes to physical fitness.

“On the other hand, their age makes them a lot more experienced so they tend not to make many mistakes or bad decisions like younger players can.

“It’s a different challenge but the aim is the same as anything we enter— to win.”

Barwell has mixed emotions on the Lakers being awarded a zero handicap.

“In one way it’s nice because it indicates that we’re one of the most respected teams in the tournament. But, with the way the handicap system has been organised, it was always going to make things very difficult for us.”

Next up for the Lakers is a trip to play the Grimsby Gators who couldn’t overcome a massive 60 point handicap deficit at the start of their first round game.

The Gators currently lie second from bottom in the county second league. They also have a zero handicap, so the game will start at 0-0. This means Barwell is happy to get back to a level playing field.

“It will certainly be a relief after the last game. Hopefully it will make for a much more entertaining game of basketball.

“I’m really confident about the game. We’ve been playing some fantastic basketball recently and the whole team has gelled really well.

“We’ve become a very solid basketball unit with great strength in depth too— we have several good players for every position now.”