Essex Leopards have secured the Division One title after beating the only remaining challengers Team Northumbria 84-72 in a must-win game in Brentwood, on Sunday.
The Leopards claimed their 18th win of the season to build an unassailable lead at the top of the standings with just one regular season game remaining. Robert Youngblood’s side were beaten just once at home going into the title showdown and a strong finish wrapped up their first D1 Championship since the 2011-12 season.
Albert Margai and Byron Richards led the way with 22 points each, while Will Ashby contributed 15 points. Jack Preston had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the visitors as they missed out on the chance to complete the ultimate turnaround having finished second-bottom last season.
Essex had moved a step closer to the title after defeating Leicester Warriors 77-58 on the road, while Northumbria suffered a defeat at Reading Rockets. They now lie in sixth with a 14-7 record with five teams still capable of finishing in second place with top four home advantage up for grabs.
Meanwhile, in Divison Two, London Lituanica crushed Lancashire Spinners by 42 points in the title-decider as Aušridas Petraitis top scored with 35 points in the 119-77 victory. They finish the league campaign with a 21-1 record with their only league defeat coming in December at the hands of Derbyshire Arrows, following on from a perfect 20-0 record in Division 3 South last season.
Lituanica also reached the semi-finals of the National Cup – losing to eventual winners, Manchester Magic – and they were also beaten by the Spinners in the final of the Patrons Cup in January. The D2 playoffs begin next week with the quarter-finals taking place on 4-5 April.
Full round-up of the weekend’s action to come later on this week.
Image credit: Essex Leopards
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