November BBL Action

Riders grab tie

Leicester fight back from huge deficit to end first-leg of semi-final level

Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders fought back from a huge deficit to grab a 90-90 tie in the first leg of their BBL Cup semi-final with Newcastle Eagles.

The Eagles must have thought they had one foot in the final after a first-half blitz put them up by as much as 21 points and poured cold water on the recent red-hot form of their hosts.

While Riders’ Ayron Hardy grabbed the first score of the contest, Fab Flournoy and his team subsequently stormed into an early double digit lead at 23-13 after a steal and lay-up by Paul Gause.

The home side could not cope with the swarming defence of the Eagles and consequently they found themselves staring down the barrel early in the tie as Darius Defoe made a statement basket to give them a huge lead at 42-21.

Despite being outplayed, the home team did rally slightly with the fantastic Bradd Wierzbicki helping to stem the tide with 18 first half-points and bring it back to 58-40 at half-time.

And when Riders emerged from the locker rooms they were a transformed team as they began a remarkable salvage operation which was every bit as impressive as the Eagles’ first-half display.

They cut the gap to 10 points at 65-55 during the third quarter, but it was in the final quarter when Riders really began to turn the screw and the once-dominant Eagles began to crumble in spectacular fashion.

With Brett Royster and Ayron Hardy lending great support to Wierzbicki, the home team even moved 88-86 in front in the closing stages before the teams eventually finished locked on 90-90.

Raiders win

In the BBL Championship, UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders shrugged off their nightmare loss toNewcastle Eagles by claiming a hard-fought 80-75 win over Durham Wildcats.

Jeremy Bell was the main architect of the success with 31 points while a drought either side of the third quarter break cost Durham, who had led by as many as 10 points in the second half, dear.

With both teams having lost one day earlier, neither raced out of the blocks with any great confidence and in a low key opening, Durham moved into an 8-4 lead as Mike Capocci made a score after a nice assist by Ralph Bucci.

The Raiders replied with a 12-4 run but Wildcats regained the upper hand by finishing the first quarter with a flourish as they scored nine of the last 11 points to lead 21-18.

Things looked bright for the host team Durham when they started the second period with a jump shot by Paul Elderkin and a triple by Fred Hinnenkamp to extend their lead to eight but their superiority was only temporary.

Led by Jeremy Bell and James Jones, the visitors found another gear offensively and locked down Durham at the defensive end to storm back into a 39-37 lead at the break.

However it was Wildcats who showed the greatest improvement in the second half as they poured in 18 quick-fire points. That helped them to open up a precious double-figure lead with the impressive Capocci making it 55-45.

But Raiders held Durham to just two more baskets during the last four minutes of the third period and piled on 18 points of their own as their hosts’ defence crumbled.

Raiders held a 63-59 advantage heading into the last quarter and continued to pile on the pressure to complete a 20-point turnaround and go 10 points up.

Durham finally showed some resilience to recover and set up a thrilling finale, getting to within two points with 90 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t to be as Raiders held on.

Paul Williams pulled down 10 rebounds for Raiders while the loss was tough on Ralph Bucci and Mario Flaherty who both claimed double-doubles for the home team.


Eagles fly on, Rocks solid

Unbeaten Newcastle thrash Plymouth, Glasgow edge out Lions

BBL Championship leaders Newcastle Eagles won again on Friday night to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, while the Glasgow Rocks moved into second.

The Eagles continue to set the pace in the league with a 6-0 record after a 90-67 destruction of the UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders at Sport Central.

The damage was done from the very outset as the Eagles led 10-4 after five minutes, including six points from Darius Defoe, who went on to top score with 22 points and eight rebounds. Lehmon Colbert led the Raiders with 19 points.

The Glasgow Rocks moved up to second in the table with a narrow 95-92 win over Prestige Homes MK Lions, who suffered their first home defeat of the season in front of a sell-out crowd at the MK Lions Arena.

In an entertaining clash, the Lions led until the final minute of the game, with Stefan Gill’s basket making it 92-89.

However, a startling finish from the Rocks saw them score six unanswered points, before Carl Josey missed a three-pointer to tie the game at the death.

Nail-biting finish

There was also a nail-biting finish at the English Institute of Sport as the One Health Sharks Sheffieldinflicted a first defeat of the season on the Worcester Wolves, beating them 76-75.

The Sharks headed into the final period down 47-60 but a 9-0 burst midway through saw them tie the game at 66 apiece.

A number of lead changes and ties ensued before Great Britain player Nate Reinking netted a buzzer-beating winner, moving the Sharks up to sixth in the process.

In the North West, the Mersey Tigers also showed their bite, seeing off a late comeback bid from the Durham Wildcats to win 85-81 and draw level with their opponents in the standings.

The Tigers led for much of the game, and seemed to have it sealed as they took a 65-54 lead into the fourth quarter after a 14-4 run.

But the Wildcats rallied with a 10-2 burst and soon took the lead themselves at 70-71 before a number of lead changes then ensued.

The Wildcats still led inside the final minute but the Tigers scored the next – and decisive – five points, Matthew Otten’s basket with 38 seconds left putting them up for good before David Aliu and James Griffiths saw the game out from the free-throw line.


Eagles soar to best start

Leaders extend 100 per cent record with superb fightback

Newcastle Eagles completed their best start to a BBL season with a 78-74 comeback success at Cheshire Jets.

Eagles flew back into the outright lead at the top of the table with their fifth straight win to preserve their 100 per cent record.

But it was a hard-fought victory as they shrugged off a slow start to overturn a 15-point deficit.

Charles Smith and Darius Defoe claimed double-doubles for the Eagles, with Smith scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, while Defoe grabbed 15 points and 14 boards.


Both teams started out of sync offensively and baskets were rare in a low-key opening.

The game was tied 7-7 approaching the midway point of the opening period before Jets, who had looked the most likely to open up a lead, finished with a flourish to lead 20-14 heading into the second quarter.

Eagles were struggling at both ends of the floor and found themselves trailing 30-18 as Jets continued their good work.

However, Eagles suddenly found their shooting range and bagged nine unanswered three-pointers to make it a one-shot game.


Jets re-established control with a 12-0 run of their own for a 42-27 lead but they were dealt a cruel blow when the influential Matt Schneck was forced off with an ankle injury.

It proved pivotal as Eagles rallied with a crucial 16-point run either side of the break to edge 43-42 ahead.

Neither side could make a decisive break after that with the game hanging in the balance in a tense finale.

But Eagles managed to hold the hosts to just five points in the last three minutes to wrap up victory.


Wolves in the hunt

Riders and Rocks also move level with leaders Eagles

Three teams recorded weekend victories to move level on points with Newcastle Eagles at the top of the BBL Championship.

Worcester Wolves and Leicester Riders maintained their 100 per cent records to take a share of top spot, while Glasgow Rocks also stayed in the hunt with their fourth win from six games.

The Wolves recorded a one point home win for the second week in a row as they overcame Plymouth on Saturday night.

Sherrad Prezzie-Blue led the scoring for the Wolves with 24 points, matched by Jeremy Bell’s 24 for the visitors in what was a battle of the respective point guards.

The hosts had led from the early exchanges and took a 36-25 advantage into half-time.

But the Raiders came back to hit the front for the first time game after the break, with a 14-3 run making it 41-42 on a basket from Bell.

Worcester edged to a 60-53 lead by the end of the third, but the Raiders weren’t done in a tense finale to the game.

The away team hit back to go 68-64 ahead before the advantage changed hands another four times, Prezzie-Blue eventually snatching victory in the dying stages.

Meanwhile, Leicester produced a dominant second-half performance to beat the Mersey Tigers.

Cameron Rundles led the hosts with 18 points and five assists, ably supported by 15 points and eight rebounds from Ayron Hardy.

A tight first half provided few clues for what was to come, as the teams were separated by no more than four points in the first 15 minutes.

There were seven lead changes on the way to a 16-16 tie at the end of the first quarter, with the Riders then edging it 37-35 by half time.

But that all changed after the break as the Riders opened up a 60-50 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The hosts were rampant in the final period and quickly rattled off the first 12 points as the Tigers failed to score for over three minutes.

Glasgow were also strong in the second half to see off the Durham Wildcats on one of their shorter trips south of the border.

Mychal Green led all scorers with 35 points, while the Wildcats were led by 19 from Mike Capocci.

After a high-scoring first quarter the teams were tied at 37 in the second before the Rocks went on a blistering surge to go 49-41 up.

The teams traded runs after the break, with Durham reducing the deficit down to 64-60 until the Rocks finished the quarter with a 7-0 tear.

And Glasgow did not allow their lead to diminish to single figures again.


Riders charge into semis

Leicester complete Cup semi-final line-up after comfortable win

The Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders completed the semi-final line-up for the BBL Cup on Sunday evening, while the Glasgow Rocks moved themselves into second position in the BBL Championship.

The Riders enjoyed a comfortable passage into the semi-finals thanks to a 74-95 victory over the Cheshire Jets at the Northgate Arena. They will now play the Newcastle Eagles while the other match-up sees the Worcester Wolves take on the UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders. The final takes place at Birmingham’s NIA in January.

A tight beginning to the game saw both teams tied at 24-24 at the end of the first quarter, but the Riders started to take control of the game in the second period as a 17-4 tear to end the first half, including eight points from Cameron Rundles, saw the visitors leading 38-52 at the half.

The Jets tried valiantly to get themselves back into the contest, but the Riders kept their hosts at bay and enjoyed their biggest lead of the game at 69-93 with 1:15 remaining in the contest as they held on for an impressive victory.

Winning ways

In the BBL Championship, the Rocks kept up their winning ways as they inflicted a third defeat of the campaign on the One Health Sharks Sheffield by a score of 82-64 at Kelvin Hall.

After both sides traded baskets for the majority of the first quarter, the Rocks took control of the game in the second thanks to a 17-8 burst to take the score out to 42-31 with three minutes remaining in the half.

Five points from Jimmy Langhurst helped the visitors close the deficit to seven points at 60-53 off the back of a 13-3 burst to end the third period, but the home side held off the Sharks’ advances in the final quarter to hold on.


Wolves edge Wildcats

Worcester maintain winning streak

The Worcester Wolves made it six wins in a row in all competitions – and two wins in consecutive nights after progressing to the BBL Cup semi-finals on Friday – as they returned to league action with a 65-64 defeat of the Durham Wildcats in the Midlands. The Wildcats slip to 1-1 in the BBL Championship, and are yet to win away from home in any competition this season.

Tommy Freeman led the Wolves with 17 points, with Richie Gordon and Carlos Fernandez netting 12 each. Mike Capocci led the visiting Wildcats, and all scorers, with 19 points.

The teams took turns in dominating a quarter each in the first half, before a tight second half and tense finale. The Wildcats raced into a 13-21 first quarter lead, only for a massive 16-point swing in the second quarter as the hosts held them to just 8 points and led 37-29 at the half.

The Wolves maintained a margin of around that size for most of the second half and still led 56-49 with seven minutes to play. From there, the Wildcats posted a 9-2 burst and tied the game at 58 on Ralph Bucci’s triple. A time-out was called before an exchange of scores: Fernandez responded for the Wolves, before Mario Flaherty’s three-pointer put the visitors back in front (60-61).

An Arnas Kazlauskas basket and David Watts free-throw saw the Wolves leading 63-61 inside the final minute, only for Bucci to hit a long triple to put Durham on the verge of victory. But, with 27 seconds remaining, Watts scored the decisive basket for the Wolves with a long two. Durham did have a shot to win the game which rimmed out and a scramble under the basket ensued; Richie Gordon grabbed the decisive rebound and secured the victory for the hosts.

In the immediate aftermath Worcester’s Coach Paul James reflected: “Durham are a well-coached team and will cause a lot of teams problems this season. We were visibly tired from last night’s game at Mersey Tigers, so I’m glad we have come away from the weekend unscathed.”


Win for Wildcats

Jets grounded as new boys get off the mark

The Durham Wildcats secured their maiden victory in the BBL Championship thanks to a hard-fought 74-72 victory over the Cheshire Jets at the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.

The Wildcats gave their fans exactly what they had been after for the first couple of months of the season and they had Ralph Bucci and Fred Hinnenkamp to thank for the victory as they bagged 19 and 16 points respectively.

The Jets made the Wildcats work hard to secure the victory and were trailing 66-70 with 1:48 remaining in the game, but four points from Hinnenkamp and a free throw from Mark Elderkin gave the home side the 71-70 with 46 second left.

A pair of free throws from Bill Cole gave the Jets the lead back at 71-72 with 20 seconds left, but the home side were not to be outdone as Odiba Attaha held his nerve to secure both of his foul shots to give the home side the 73-72 lead.

The Jets had the opportunity to win the game, but Colin O’Reilly’s shot at the end was blocked by Attaha to send the home fans into raptures.

Guildford Heat 77 (12,39,53) (Ogedengbe 26, Joseph 20, Martin 12)
Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders 79 (20,35,53) (Rundles 30, Wierzbicki 16, Hardy 12)

In the other game on Saturday night, the Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders and Guildford Heat played out a classic match at the Surrey Sports Park, but the Heat could not break their duck as the Riders secured a 77-79 victory.

The Riders had lead 69-76 heading into the final minute of the contest, but Julius Joseph and Tayo Ogedengbe helped the home side close the deficit to two points at 74-77 with eight seconds left.

The Heat then tied the game at 77-77 thanks to an impressive three-pointer from Joseph with seven seconds remaining causing the Riders to spend their final time-out of the game.

When they came out of the time-out, the Riders put the ball in the hands of Cameron Rundles who dribbled from one side of the court to the other and put up a tough fade-away jump shot right on the buzzer which hit nothing but string and handed the Riders the all-important victory.


Flourney respects Lions

Eagles look to go 4-0 against Lions

Newcastle Eagles will aim to preserve their lead at the top of the BBL Championship table when they host Prestige Homes MK Lions at Sport Central, on Friday night.

The Eagles have won their opening three regular season games, and combined with their progress to the BBL Trophy semi-final, it was enough to win play-caller Fabulous Flournoy the Molten Coach of the Month award.

Meanwhile, Lions have had a mixed start to the campaign having lost their opening Championship game at Glasgow Rocks and gone out of the BBL Cup at Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders, but a comfortable win at London Leopards last week saw them join Eagles in the draw for the BBL Trophy semi-finals.

The Eagles have won eight of the nine meetings between the teams over the last three years, but the last time they played saw Lions dent Newcastle’s title hopes with an 83-81 victory at the MK Basketball Centre.

Despite that mixed start to the season for the Lions, Flournoy isn’t taking the visit of MK lightly.

“We haven’t seen Lions this year, their results have been up and down but we know how explosive their backcourt is from last year,” he said.

“Stefan Gill and Demarius Bolds are not guys you can take lightly. I don’t know why they have lost the games so comprehensively but am sure that will be fuel for them coming up here to play against us.”

The Eagles go into the game on the back of a second straight win against one of the sides tipped to challenge them from the title, One Health Sharks Sheffield, and Flournoy was delighted with the way his team performed in the second half.

“Sharks was, as we expected, a lot tougher the second time around,” he added. “Our first half was probably as poor as we have played all season and only our interior defence kept us in the game.

“In the second half we managed to pick up the tempo and get a lead but even then we could not maintain it all the way to the end and we allowed the Sharks, who to their credit never stopped competing, to come right back into it.

“For us Andy Thomson had a really solid game and when we needed a lift at half-time Joe Chapman came out and provided it. Also I was delighted that Ross Wilson had the confidence to step up and knock down a big shot with his first touch of the ball with only a minute to go.

“He has been struggling with knee tendonitis but when he gets healthy and is able to practice properly we really hope to see him on court more.

“Jimmy Langhurst was exceptional and nearly willed Sharks to victory. Mike Tuck also had his normal consistent game.”

The win gives Eagles the tiebreaker if the two sides finish level, but Flournoy isn’t getting carried away.

“The head-to-head is only important if the two teams finish on the same wins and losses. There is still 90 percent of the season to go so I would need to have a crystal ball to say whether it will matter or not.”

Eagles still have the option of adding additional non-EU player, but Flournoy is happy with his current squad: “At the moment we are who we are. We are not actively looking to make additions but we do expect to have Charles [Smith] back soon which will of course be like adding another player.”

Lions’ coach Mike New is aware of the challenge facing his team in the north east: “I know that Newcastle have some really solid veterans in coach Fab, Charles Smith and Andrew Bridge, along with an outstanding shooter in Joe Chapman. They’ve added the big English kid, Andrew Thomson, who I had my eye on in the summer. They’re a bit banged up without Charles at the moment, but they’re finding a way to win. That’s important, it doesn’t matter if you win well or ugly, it’s the way you win that counts.

“Paul Gause has been playing well for them, and Thompson has been outstanding. Along with Charles, they’re probably their key players.”