- National Teams
Newcastle Eagles are just two wins away from yet another league title after battling through injuries to split their weekend double-header on the road.
Last season’s double-winners Worcester Wolves completed an impressive series sweep over the league leaders after edging every quarter on their way to an 88-81 victory – even without Robert Thurman, once again. Captain Alex Owumi led by example with a 25-point and 10-rebound double-double with Chavis Holmes adding 17 points as all five starters hit double figures. The visiting Eagles lost Rahmon Fletcher early to a nasty-looking injury, while Darius Defoe and Drew Lasker battled with injuries. Charles Smith played the full game and had 22 points, 9 rebounds and six assists.
A depleted Newcastle side took on Plymouth Raiders less than 24 hours later with Fletcher, Lasker and Andre Jones joining Fab Flournoy on the injury list with just six players fit. Trophy Final MVP, Smith stole the show with an incredible display – finishing with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in another 40-minute effort. Andy Thomson and Scott Martin both added 20 points apiece with the American also contributing 13 rebounds and five assists in the win. Plymouth themselves played with a seven-man rotation with Brent Benson and Ben Mockford both nursing injuries with Jordan Clarke still out. Pierre Hampton top scored with 32 points and had 10 rebounds as his side missed the chance to close on eighth spot.
Leicester Riders moved level on points with Worcester after a triple-winning week left them one win away from securing a top-three finish. They began with an 87-81 home win over London Lions after Rashad Hassan came up with another dominant display with 31 points and 17 rebounds, while Neil Watson provided 13 assists in the win. Next up, was another hard-fought home win as the Riders saw off top-4 rivals Cheshire Phoenix with a 100-82 win, despite 28 points from Dustin Salisbery. Tyler Bernardini scored 29, while Hassan had 19 and 9 and Watson came up with another 13 assists to lead the hosts. The big talking point from the game was this NASTY dunk from TrayVonn Wright (see below):
On Sunday, the Riders got off to a strong start that set the tone for a comfortable 101-67 victory away at Durham Wildcats – who suffered their 11th straight defeat. The win for Leicester, was their eighth in a row and also the 200th with Rob Paternostro as Head Coach. Conner Washington shot 8-11 from the field including 5-7 from downtown on his way to a season-high 22 points with five other players into double-figures.
On Easter Friday, Plymouth came away from the Emirates Arena with an important 82-72 victory as Hampton again led the way with 25 and 10. Derek Elston pulled down 17 rebounds to go along with 13 points in the win, while Kieron Achara had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Glasgow Rocks. The Scottish-based side did manage to pick up two other wins this week either side of the loss to the Raiders and have now confirmed their spot in the playoffs with fifth place still up for grabs.
The Rocks were rampant away at Surrey United as they claimed a 111-75 win on Wednesday night. Tayo Ogedengbe top scored with 19 points as six players hit double figures including Dale Grieve, who netted 4/4 from beyond the arc for his 12 points, while Reggie Middleton dished out 11 assists to go along with his 14 points. Kramer Knutson recorded his fifth straight double-double and 22nd of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Anthony Downing had 13 points and 11 assists for the hosts. Glasgow would then bounce back from Friday’s defeat by overcoming a slow start to beat the Lions 82-65 and move within a win of their rivals. Middleton top scored with 17 points, while the visitors were led by Lovell Cook’s game-high of 18 with just four points contributed by the bench.
Sheffield Sharks are the third team locked in the battle for fifth as they took their run of wins in the league to seven with contrasting blowouts. On Friday night, the Sharks were dominant against playoff hopefuls Bristol Flyers as Mike Cook scored 19 points in a 92-61 win. Two days later, and Sheffield looked in danger of falling to a loss at Surrey after falling 18 points down in the third quarter. However, Nick Lewis sparked their revival and they went on to win by a comfortable margin as 95-79 winners. The former GB under-20 guard finished with 26 points and added 5 rebounds, four assists and three steals in just over 23 minutes of action, while BJ Holmes and Mike Tuck had 21 and 20 points respectively.
Manchester Giants are only a win behind the golden eighth spot, but saw their playoff hopes dented with a 64-57 loss at home to Leeds Force. James McCann and Will Hall combined for 37 points and 17 rebounds to help their side pull off yet another impressive road win as they climb above Durham with their ninth league win. Ingus Bankevics top scored with a game-high 24 points with Rob Marsden pulling down 15 boards to go with his 12 points as the Giants failed to hold on to their slender two-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Results: Wednesday- Leicester Riders 87-81 London Lions, Surrey United 75-111 Glasgow Rocks. Friday- Glasgow Rocks 72-82 Plymouth Raiders, Sheffield Sharks 92-61 Bristol Flyers, Worcester Wolves 88-81 Newcastle Eagles. Saturday- Plymouth Raiders 90-101 Newcastle Eagles, Leicester Riders 100-82 Cheshire Phoenix. Sunday- Surrey United 79-95 Sheffield Sharks, Durham Wildcats 67-101 Leicester Riders, Glasgow Rocks 82-65 London Lions, Manchester Giants 57-64 Leeds Force.
Standings: Eagles 29-3, Riders 25-5, Wolves 25-7, Phoenix 23-10, Lions 18-14, Rocks 17-14, Sharks 17-15, Flyers 12-22, Giants 11-20, Raiders 10-22, Force 9-24, Wildcats 8-24, United 5-28
Star 5– Neil Watson, Nick Lewis, Alex Owumi, Charles Smith, Rashad Hassan
Image credit: Mansoor Ahmed/Ahmedphotos