- National Teams
The BBL regular season continues to heat up at both ends of the table with more drama in the races for the title and playoff places, while the first BBL Trophy quarter-final took place.
Newcastle Eagles extended their lead at the top of the table with a double-winning weekend. The first came on Friday night as powered past Plymouth Raiders 123-101 in a high-scoring encounter at Sport Central. As is custom, Newcastle had an array of scorers with six in double figures, led by Andre Jones’ 27 while Darius Defoe (19pts/11rbs) and Scott Martin (18pts/10rbs) contributed commanding double-doubles. The Raiders led 33-29 at the end of the first, but failed to contain their free-scoring opponents. Jordan Clarke continued his impressive form with 24 points, while Pierre Hampton and Brent Benson added 21 and 20 points respectively.
The Eagles then made it two out of two for the weekend with a 97-84 victory at Sheffield Sharks. Jones came up big once again for the visitors with a 30-point haul including a perfect 9-9 free throw record as part of a 17-17 team effort, with Martin (19pts/11rbs) adding another double-double. The home side had four players in double figures, led by Mike Tuck’s 19 points on 9-12 FG shooting.
Worcester Wolves survived a huge scare in a BBL TV thriller as a missed game-winner from Elvisi Dusha allowed them to hold on to a 71-70 win against Surrey United. The visitors were led by Anthony Downing’s 18 points, while new signing Dominique Coleman added 12 before fouling out. The home side shot 15-28 from the free throw line, and were led by Alex Owumi’s 20 points with Chavis Holmes weighing in with 19. Robert Thurman returned to the starting line-up with a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double.
Paul James’ men were in action again 24 hours later and saw the defence of their BBL Trophy title come to an end as Leicester Riders triumphed 80-71 in Loughborough to reach the semi-finals. Rashad Hassan top scored with 21 points, while Neil Watson added 16 points along with 10 assists in another all-round display as the Riders also welcomed back Pavol Losonsky. Owumi led the Wolves resistance with 19, while Thurman was kept relatively quiet on the bench.
Taylor King produced another huge display after posting 28 points and 15 boards in a 79-68 home win for Cheshire Phoenix over Bristol Flyers. Dustin Salisbery added 19 and 10, while Demond Watt had 10 rebounds to compliment his 8 points on his return with Mike DiNunno still absent. The Flyers did lead at the end of the first but fell away in the second half as their playoff charge halted. Doug McLaughlin-Williams top scored with 20 points with Bree Perine finishing with 16 points, 6 assists and 5 steals in a fine all-round effort.
The Flyers had also suffered defeat on the road on Friday after falling to a 78-65 loss in the capital. London Lions started well and never looked back with Drew Sullivan leading the way with 17 points. Perry Lawson stepped up with 11 points off the bench with some big triples to keep the Lions on top throughout. McLaughlin-Williams again top scored for the Flyers with 12.
In an important playoff game, Glasgow Rocks recovered from a slow start to defeat Manchester Giants 90-85. Kieron Achara starred with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists to lead his side to a big win. Stefan Gill scored 24 in reply with the Giants without new Irish-American signing Devin Grimes, who is yet to arrive.
There was to be a second heartache for Surrey over the weekend as they suffered an agonising 76-75 defeat on the road at Durham Wildcats, on the buzzer. Fran Urli was the hero with the game-winner after the visitors had overturned a seven point deficit to take the lead late on. Joel Madourie finished with a BBL-high 24 points, while Ralph Bucci hauled down 15 rebounds along with 6 point and 6 assists. Coleman poured in a joint weekend-high 30 points on 5-8 shooting from downtown with Kramer Knutson adding 19 points and 13 rebounds in the defeat.
Leeds Force were unable to move clear of their fellow basement strugglers as they were beaten 79-73 by Sheffield at the University of Huddersfield on Friday night. Mike Cook had a game-high 23 points for the Sharks with Tuck adding 17 to help their side claim the Yorkshire derby series head-to-head. Sam Attah played the full 40 minutes for Force and posted a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds.
RESULTS: Friday– London Lions 78-65 Bristol Flyers, Newcastle Eagles 123-101 Plymouth Raiders, Leeds Force 73-79 Sheffield Sharks, Worcester Wolves 71-70 Surrey United. Saturday– Leicester Riders 80-71 Worcester Wolves (BBL Trophy). Sunday– Sheffield Sharks 84-97 Newcastle Eagles, Durham Wildcats 76-75 Surrey United, Glasgow Rocks 90-85 Manchester Giants, Cheshire Phoenix 79-68 Bristol Flyers.
STANDINGS: Eagles 19-2, Wolves 18-4, Riders 16-3, Phoenix 15-6, Lions 11-8, Sharks 10-11, Rocks 9-10, Wildcats/Giants 8-14, Flyers 8-15, Raiders 6-14, Force 5-18, United 4-18.
STAR 5: Neil Watson, Andre Jones, Scott Martin, Drew Sullivan, Kieron Achara (6th man- Dominique Coleman)