Duo hailed as Smugglers set standard
Steve Davison and Luke Saunders carried the Portsmouth RN Smugglers to a comprehensive 92-62 derby victory against the Fury, writes Tom Bonnett.
In the first competitive clash between the rivals for more than seven years, the pair combined for 51 points to clinch a third consecutive victory for their side in Solent League division one east.
Smugglers head coach Mick Byrne was full of praise for the duo after a dominant display.
He said: ‘Steve is a class player but Luke played really well also.
‘We’ve got some good players who are all of National League standard.
‘We haven’t played for such a long time, so it took us a while to get back into the game but once we got playing we were fine.
‘Quite a few of our players haven’t played for us this season at all.
‘It took a while to get it all together but we had a talk at half-time and said we need to play better defence, which is what we did.
‘Once we got the ball and ran with it we scored quite easily.
‘It’s unfortunate we are losing all of the new guys as they are going back off to sea.
‘That’s the trouble with having a Royal Navy team – they are always filtering in and out of contention.’
Davison’s big night started early on as he scored the Smugglers’ first two baskets.
But it was the Fury who opened up a 15-6 lead behind some tough defence and fast-paced offence from Antonio Santoro.
Byrne’s Smugglers were able to claw their way back to end the first quarter only three points behind.
But the Fury kept up their impressive start in the second quarter as they continued to ask questions of the title hopefuls.
Santoro delivered a string of baskets, while there were some good transition lay-ups from Iu Uyala.
Davison changed the tempo of the game when he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to give the Smugglers a three-point lead.
And they ended the half with a 35-29 advantage.
In the third quarter, the Fury were not able to keep up with the Smugglers – who looked like a different team after Byrne’s half-time team-talk.
Their lead soon grew from six points to 21 in the space of four minutes.
The depth of the Smugglers’ bench was in full effect as their speed was too much for Fury’s tired legs.
The fourth quarter followed suit as Saunders put on an offensive masterclass with 10 points as well as an array of assists.
And as the final buzzer sounded the Smugglers had given the Fury a harsh reality check.
The Smugglers are now unbeaten in their opening three games, while the Fury have lost three of their opening five league matches since their promotion back to the top tier.