Walsh hits game-winner to seal NBL1 safety

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PRESTON, Lancs. — David Walsh scored 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting, including the game-winning layup at the buzzer, which gave Lancashire an 83-82 victory over Essex on Sunday and keeps the Spinners in National League 1 next season.

“The second the ball left my hand everything went in slow motion and it just bobbled around the ring and I was stood there thinking, ‘Are you going to drop? Are you going to drop?’ and there was so much noise I didn’t hear the buzzer go. It was crazy,” said Walsh.

Connor Murtagh added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Spinners (7-22, 7-17, who secured their status in Basketball England’s top division with two games to spare.

David Ulph scored 12 of his 13 points at the rim and grabbed nine boards, including the crucial defensive rebound that led to Walsh’s game-winner. Lancashire had the upper hand on the glass, narrowly outrebounding Essex 40-36.

“We live in the moments where we hope our junior players give us those like Dave did today,” said Lancashire coach Neal Hopkins. “That shot is a reward for having that resiliency to respond from having made some mistakes, which is expected from young players.”

The Spinners trailed 53-38 at the break, but shot 50 percent after halftime, as they erased a deficit of 18 at its largest. Lancashire had not led until Murtagh knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc giving his team a 78-77 advantage with five minutes remaining.

Essex then broke an 80-all tie with a contested layup at the rim. But the Spinners got one at the line to draw within one before the Leopards missed a 15-foot jump shot, which would’ve given them a three-point lead with 12 seconds.

Ulph fought of his defender to the floor to win the rebound and sent Murtagh on his way. Walsh made a swift move and charged into the lane releasing a floater, which bounced once on the rim before falling.

AJ Roberts scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half to lead Essex (8-22,5-20), which was relegated from Division One with the loss. Perry Lawson added 17 and Douglas Bennett had 16.

NOTES: Lancashire led for 2:12 seconds … Essex had led for 37:37 … Jack Hudson played 38 minutes after suffering a knee injury on Sat. against Solent … Finished with 11 points and four assists … The Spinners had 14 assists on 30 made field goals.

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