Saturday night saw one of the greatest final quarter turnarounds in BBL history as Surrey United made a 28-point swing over the Manchester Giants.
What makes it even more incredible is that, up until Saturday evening, they had a record of 0-18 in all competitions for the season so far.
BBL rookie Elvisi Dusha feels that, despite finally securing that first W, it should have been come earlier in the season.
“It was a win that was long awaited; I believe we could have got a W earlier in the month versus Durham. We have been 100% focused in every training and really want to develop,” said the youngest captain in the BBL.
The 57-point loss at home to Worcester Wolves in the opening game of the season, followed a few weeks later by another huge 69-point defeat at the hands of reigning champions Leicester Riders; the journey that Surrey have gone on to finally reach this point has been gradual, but the progress shown in last Sunday’s loss to Durham Wildcats gave hope to seeing a win sooner rather than later.
With that proverbial monkey off United’s back, Dusha and his team-mates are now looking forward with renewed optimism – and determination to continue to prove early season naysayers wrong.
“I think critics have been proven wrong once and I’m sure they will be again. Saturday’s win was massive for us and winning on Thursday in the BBL Trophy game versus Bristol Flyers will put us 2-0.
“Going to Birmingham with a two-game streak will be massive for us,” the positive Dusha went on to say.
“I think we have proven that we can play in this league; we have had great close games and really bad games, but so have majority of the other teams, so I don’t see why all fingers have been pointed at us?”
The Surrey star may rightly feel aggrieved, as sides such as Glasgow Rocks, Durham Wildcats and Manchester Giants have all struggled so far this season when pre-season hopes placed them higher than where they are currently positioned.
One side though has gone hand-in-hand with Surrey up to now; the Birmingham Knights.
They are now in the unenviable situation of being the only side not to have won this season, and the series between the two sides was thought to be where the first win for at least one of the teams would come.
Dusha was hopeful of getting the win under their belts before they met, and now having that knows that complacency cannot be afforded to set in and prove it wasn’t just a one-off over the Giants.
“We are yet to play Birmingham, so I really don’t know what to expect but I do feel that we were pushing more for a win before it came around, so we began to be considered as competitors. Birmingham look threatening, but we just have to continue to play how we have recently; I think there is still huge pressure on us because people will say it was a fluke and won’t happen again – to prove them wrong we have to play good and win.”
What people are keen to know though, is what transpired at the end of that third quarter to inspire Surrey to victory on Saturday.
“The talk before the fourth was just basically to give it everything we had; we didn’t have anything to lose and only respect to gain. Our main focus was defence to stop allowing them easy basket and defensive rebounds!
“When we took the lead, I just kept looking up hoping the time would run off the clock. Having us just believing we could do it also allowed us to maintain focus and nobody wanted to be the reason of a loss. We all paid very close attention in timeouts and a lot of credit goes to coach Jack [Majewski]; he did a hell of a job keeping us focused and motivating us into believing we had it in us.
“Having the fans was behind us all the way helped – we didn’t want to let them down again after such a close game against Durham at home,” Dusha acknowledged.
That itself has also been a stumbling block for Surrey United. The changes that the organisation went through during the summer were felt from top to bottom. For some, a second name change in as many years was enough to turn their back on the franchise.
But Dusha now feels that the win, and the desire shown on Saturday to turn the game around, could win back the hearts of those who fell out of love with the club.
“A change is needed sometimes and I believe coach has done something that impacts everybody involved in basketball, allowing young student athletes to play basketball at the top level, whilst undertaking degrees says it all.
“I do believe the fans we have are amazing and Saturday night just proved how much they mean to us and giving them something to celebrate is a great gift. I do hope we have proven to all the old Heat fans that, although the name has changed, we are still willing to fight and win for the community.”
Finally, Dusha made a direct plea to the supporters, both old and new: “Hopefully we can start selling out games, but give us a chance to allow you to believe in us as Surrey’s young professional basketball team.”