An unbelievable three-pointer from Luka Skoric forced the overtime which handed Cambridge a 74-72 victoryAndrew Derrett

The Cambridge Blues fought back to reclaim the Varsity title in scarcely believable fashion, clinching a breath-taking 74–72 win in the second period of overtime.

Blues forward Luka Skorić was the hero, landing a near impossible long-range three-pointer just as the final buzzer sounded, tying the scores up at 56–56 and dramatically forcing overtime.

These were scenes not out of place in a Hollywood film. In a frantic match that ebbed and flowed from the very first whistle, it felt like fate that handed Skorić, the man around whom this Light Blues team is built, this unforgettable moment.

If the women’s classic encounter earlier on Sunday was the appetiser, then this was certainly one heck of a main course.

The first quarter began in frantic, even fashion, with both sides showing impressive handling skills and agility. Some early scores were netted as each side tried to get a foothold in the match. On the whole, the well-drilled defences were on top in the early stages, with forwards finding it difficult to penetrate the opposition’s key.

An animated Tim Weil, the Light Blues’ coach, was left frustrated by his own team’s carelessness at the conclusion of the first quarter, with countless fouls preventing his team from establishing any sort of significant advantage. In open play the hosts’ superiority was clear, with Skorić at the centre of most positive Cambridge play, scoring with punishing regularity. 

The second quarter belonged to Cambridge. Some long-range three-pointers began to find their target, and only the impressive Amer Comair of Oxford could find any sort of riposte to the Light Blue dominance. Some huge defensive blocks from Cambridge powerhouse Jostein Hauge all too regularly quelled the Oxford danger, and a commanding 29–25 lead was established at the interval.

The third quarter began in a similar vein, and Light Blues forwards Jack Clearman and Skorić threatened to take the tie away from the visitors. Cambridge were sharper on the rebounds, quicker to every loose ball, and far more ruthless when in sight of the hoop. At 39–29, it required something special from the Oxford contingent to bring them back into this match.

And Comair duly provided it. From nowhere, the diminutive Oxonian drained three consecutive three-pointers without reply, hauling his out-of-sorts team right back into the encounter. Oxford coach Vassilios Copetinas would have been delighted going into the final quarter, with just a single point deficit at 43–42.

But the drama was only just beginning. If Cambridge dominated early proceedings, it was a complete reversal come the final quarter. Suddenly Oxford were stronger on the rebound, and gained that cutting edge that had so dearly been lacking initially. The team grew and grew in confidence, with Comair delighting the travelling faithful with some dazzling handling skills and lay-ups.

When four consecutive free throws were missed by the hosts, Weil called a prudent time-out, with his team trailing 47–52. Spurred on by the raucous, packed home crowd, Weil’s men would not be kept down, and, with a minute left, now only trailed by one.

But, after a fortunate rebound score from the visitors, all Cambridge’s hard work looked to have come to nothing, with the score at 53–56 with 8 seconds left on the clock. In one final last-gasp play, the ball fell to the outstanding Skorić, whose unbalanced looping buzzer shot dropped in and sparked scenes of incredulity and awe among players, coaches and fans alike.

And so overtime was required. The rolling five-minute period began with an exchange of free throws as some clearly tired legs gave away some careless fouls. Sam Black held his nerve with seconds remaining to tie up the scored yet again in this epic tussle. The period ended in some controversy, with the referee’s whistle and the buzzer seeming to come simultaneously. A livid Oxford bench claimed that a potential match-winning foul should have been awarded, but a decision was made to roll into the next period of overtime.

And Cambridge were not to be denied. By this stage the entire arena was on its feet, with Cambridge holding a narrow two-point lead. Oxford were handed a last-gasp opportunity with two free throws to level the scores. But, when the first rimmed out rather than in, the Light Blues knew they had done enough to avenge last year’s defeat and take an astonishing 74–72 victory.

Weil and his players after the full time whistle ran straight to Skorić, whose intervention with seconds left will remain the standout moment of this titanic battle. A visibly dejected Oxford bench should hold their heads up high, having contributed enormously to the quality and excitement of the spectacle.

Winning is of course always a wonderful feeling, but snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as Cambridge did today makes this one of the greatest Varsity victories in years.

CUBC: Miller, Skorić, Clearman, Baptista, Bernou, Black, Lundgren (C), Walsh, Adebayo, Bedell, Kurdi, Krstajić, Hauge

OUBbC: Springer, Saidani, Bobrovitz, Pasquali, Abraham, Comair, Bakos, Baron, Townsend (C), Hoff, Thomson, Fu, Croak, Mebius