- National Teams
The BBL Playoffs began this weekend and four teams have now moved closer to a trip to The O2 Arena after getting through the opening round match-ups.
Leicester Riders (1) v Leeds Force (8)
Leicester were the first team to book their spot in the last four after completing an aggregate win over Leeds Force to continue their quest for a treble. The Riders had lost 81-78 in Yorkshire earlier in the month in a crucial league encounter and were involved in another fierce battle in the first leg. Leeds took the lead at 72-71 midway through the final quarter, but seven points down the stretch from Drew Sullivan helped his side to a 78-83 victory. Tyler Bernardini top scored with 19 points with TrayVonn Wright adding 18 to help counter Kwan Waller’s 21-point haul for the hosts.
The second leg at the LCS Arena began with the Force immediately wiping out their overall deficit with the opening six points as a hard-fought first half ensued with Leicester eventually leading by four at the break. However, they pulled clear in the second half, holding their opponents to nine points in the third period as they went on to secure a convincing 20-point win in breaking Leeds’ resolve. Trevor Gruis tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double amongst a balanced attack.
Riders win 158-133 on aggregate.
— Marek Klassen (@marekklassen) April 24, 2016
Newcastle Eagles (2) v Cheshire Phoenix (7)
Cheshire Phoenix pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round after knocking out the defending champions in a pulsating tie that went right down to the wire. The Eagles were without starting duo Scott Martin and Andy Thomson for both legs, and faced an uphill battle after losing the first leg 91-104 at Sport Central. Rahmon Fletcher had 32 points and nine assists for the BBL Cup winners, but 34 points and 11 rebounds from Kinu Rochford helped Cheshire gain the upper-hand to take a 13-point back to Ellesmere Port Sports Village.
John Lavery’s side racked up 33 points in the opening quarter to build an overall 20-point advantage on aggregate. Newcastle battled back to lead by four on the night at half-time and went on a storming run in the final quarter to set up a frantic finish. A 10-0 run cut their overall deficit to a single point before Charles Smith’s 3-pointer made it 77-91 which put his side ahead on aggregate. However, Cheshire held their nerve and were able to secure their passage into the semi-finals despite an 87-96 defeat. Darius Defoe netted 34 points, while Smith had 26 points and 14 rebounds as their side came up short. Another strong display from Rochford saw the American add a second double-double in the tie with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Phoenix win 191-187 on aggregate.
Sheffield Sharks (3) v London Lions (6)
Sheffield Sharks took care of business on home court before completing the job with a narrow loss in the return leg. The tie was evenly poised after the opening 10 minutes with the score locked at 20-20, but the third seeds began to make their move and a strong second half display saw them outscore the Lions 47-31 for a convincing 94-70 triumph. Jerrold Brooks scored 31 points in the win, while Mike Tuck and TJ Robinson both added 19 points apiece whilst recording double-doubles.
Demond Watt then produced an inspired display in the second leg with a huge double-double of 32 points and 22 rebounds to guide the Lions to victory at the Copper Box, although they ultimately fell comfortably short. The Sharks looked way out of sight when they raced into a 15-5 lead as their aggregate advantage moved beyond the 30-point mark. However, the Lions responded well and aided by Watt’s dominance on the glass, they were able to cut the overall deficit to single figures by the end of the third after establishing a 15-point lead on the night. They could get no closer and Sheffield levelled the game late on before crucial scores from former players, Nick Lewis and Olu Babalola ensured London’s season ended in a 78-75 victory.
Sharks win 169-148 on aggregate.
Worcester Wolves (4) v Glasgow Rocks (5)
Both teams finished with 19-14 records during the regular season, but the first leg at the Emirates Arena was far from an even contest as Glasgow Rocks all but killed off the tie. The home side established an early double-digit advantage and went from strength to strength with a dominant 24-8 final quarter helping the Rocks earn a crushing 90-53 success. Kieron Achara top scored with 22 points and added 10 rebounds, while Warren Gillis dished out 12 assists to go with a 20-point haul of his own.
To their credit, Worcester came out with a point to prove in the second leg and after a 32-15 opening period, they led by as many as 22 points early in the second to create the possibility of an unlikely comeback. However, the Rocks battled back and despite finding themselves down 18 on the night by the end of the third, a late 3-point barrage from Riley Grabau saw the visitors close to within five in an 88-83 defeat with their passage through to the last four long secured. Jordan Aaron led the spirited display from the Wolves with 20 points as they bow out early.
Rocks win 173-141 on aggregate.
— Kieron Achara (@KieronAchara) April 24, 2016
BBL Playoffs Semi-Finals:
Leicester Riders v Cheshire Phoenix
Sheffield Sharks v Glasgow Rocks
Two-legged ties to be played next weekend.