No Drew Sullivan, no problem. Mersey Tigers will take a 15-point advantage into the second leg of their BBL play-off semi-final against Cheshire after a 79-64 win at the Northgate.

And it was Andrew Thomson who led the way, the England international emerging on top in his private battle with Matt Schneck as he scored a game-high 22 points.

A repeat showing on Sunday in return at Manchester’s Amaechi Centre (6pm) and the league and Trophy winners will be just one victory away from a glorious treble.  

Thomson made his presence felt immediately as the visitors produced an early surge to go 25-16 in front at the end of the second quarter.

Nate Reinking, usually so reliable, was off-form, missing his initial six three-point attempts. However Mersey have heroes in all corners. James Jones aggressively drove into the Jets defence to help pull his side 47-31 clear at half-time.

Cheshire needed a response. Jeremy Bell flung up shot after shot. The Jets closed, Tigers resisted.

Up 60-48 headed into the fourth period, Tony Garbelotto’s men delivered another brutal surge which may ultimately prove to be decisive, leaving their rivals with a mountain to climb if they are to avoid an exit.

Bell led Cheshire with 17 points on 7-21 shooting.


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