(Photo: Jack Hinds)
Connor Murtagh scored all 16 of his points in the second half to help lift the Lancashire Spinners past Westminster Warriors 84-71 on Saturday.
The forward, who last led the team in scoring back on Nov. 14, shot just 5-for-16 for the game and missed his first seven attempts and his first field goal came 34 seconds in the fourth quarter.
Aitor Estrada had 15 points, including four 3-pointers, as he made his first start of the year in place of Mike Bernard (illness). Steven Gayle added 12 points for the Spinners (18-8, 9-6 NBL1).
Seventh-placed Lancashire shook off what was an evenly matched contest early in the second quarter following Gayle’s triple, which broke a 21-all tie. The Spinners then went on a 10-0 run as Westminster was held without a field goal for almost two minutes.
“It was the team performance we’ve been looking for. I’m really proud of how the younger guy played and how Aitor stepped up,” said Spinners coach Neal Hopkins, who got 38 points from his bench.
Jonathan Johnson had a game-high 22 points and Yannick Bulambwe added 13 and 12 rebounds to lead the Warriors (9-15, 2-12), who were short-benched. They shot 40 percent but committed 13 turnovers, which Lancashire converted into 13 points.
The hosts built their largest advantage of 17 points with 3:55 remaining in the first half and the Warriors would get no closer than six after the break.
Johnson hit a three to cut the deficit to nine but Alex Roberts immediately pushed the Spinners into double-digits for good following a jump shot four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Lancashire shot just 39 percent from the floor (31 of 79) after going 17-for-36 in the first half. … The Spinners won the rebounding battle by a plus-20 margin (39-19) and were 12-for-14 at the free throw line. … Murtagh played a team-high 24 minutes followed by Steven Vaughan who logged nearly 22. … The Spinners attempted 38 3-pointers and made just 10.
The Spinners travel to Tees Valley Mohawks on Saturday before hosting five of the next six games at Castle Leisure Centre.