- National Teams
Leeds Force finally ended their search for a first league victory in the BBL after defeating Surrey United 73-61 at the Carnegie Sports Arena on Friday.
The win ensures that there will be no repeat of recent seasons where the likes of Mersey Tigers and Birmingham Knights have gone through the whole season without a league win to their name. Leeds had already tasted victory in the BBL having knocked out Manchester in the Cup but had suffered defeats in their opening six league games.
“We’re very pleased (to get the win) and very happy with our performance,” said Head Coach Matt Newby – speaking to Hoopsfix following the victory. “We probably should have taken wins earlier, but we are definitely making ground.
“It alleviates the pressure, and there was probably more pressure than before because Surrey were only just above us, and the players did a really good job of managing the expectations.
“We opened the game really well, and were very committed in terms of our effort. We got a lot right in the scouting report so credit to the coaches,” he acknowledged.
“We have to build on it now, the win will re-assure the players and give us confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how we come out and perform in front of the BBL TV spotlight against Leicester (on Sunday).”
Former GB U20 player Will Hall (pictured) continued his fine scoring form for the Force with a game-high 23 points on 9-12 shooting while Branimir Mikulic (13pts/14rbs) and American James McCann (10pts/11ast) both added double-doubles and Darrel Bethune had 14 points.
“Will (Hall) is a high-calibre player and we are fortunate to have him with us,” Newby added. “We have a good environment for him to really develop this season.”
Leeds made a strong start, quickly building a 20-3 lead early on as they took control in the opening quarter – which would become 26-7 at the end of the first. The home side were shooting above 60% from the field while Surrey struggled, making just 1 of their 12 field goal attempts.
Their fortunes would improve slightly in the second quarter after holding Leeds scoreless in the first six minutes whilst adding seven points themselves. The home side stopped the rot and responded with an 11-2 run to edge away again sparked by five consecutive points from Hall. Surrey would finish with the final six points to head into half-time trailing 37-24.
Mikulic and Bethune started the third with scores from beyond the arc and when Mikulic drained another triple later on in the quarter, Leeds had pushed the score out to 54-29 – with the lead peaking at 25 points. However, the visitors would again make a late run to head into the final quarter down by 18 at 58-40.
And Surrey came out firing in the fourth with 12 unanswered points in the opening few minutes of the quarter to cut the gap to just six points. Leeds would not relinquish their advantage under growing pressure and held off their opponents with a 10-0 response with Hall adding six points during the run.
That would be decisive in repelling the late charge from Surrey and Leeds would hold on to secure their first league win in the BBL Championship. The 73-61 win also puts Force level with their rivals on a 1-6 record ahead of their aforementioned BBL TV clash with Leicester (available here) on Sunday.
Image credit: Chris Midgley