RAIDERS ROLL INTO TROPHY FINAL

Plymouth Raiders booked a place in the BBL Trophy final with a 107-99 overtime win over Milton Keynes Lions.

Trailing by six points from the opening leg, the Devon outfit required a late three-pointer from Jeremy Bell to level the tie on aggregate as regulation ended with his side up 95-89.

But Plymouth held their nerve in the extra period to reach their second final of the season where they will face Newcastle or Sheffield – leaving the Lions to rue a blown opportunity.

“I’m pretty happy, we played well and everyone chipped in tonight and bought into the system,” Raiders’ forward Lehmon Colbert said. “We needed to slow [Demarius] Bolds down and make the other guys try to beat us, and it worked. It means a lot to be in a final, I always want to win.”

Raiders quickly found themselves down by double digits in the tie when Demarius Bolds helped the visitors into an 8-3 lead during the opening stages and it was still an eleven point margin by the end of the first quarter with the Lions 23-18 ahead.

But, it wasn’t long before the home team rallied and the spark was provided by Michael Ojo. The shooter drained one from distance and it was a three-pointer which put Raiders 26-25 ahead after an 8-2 start to the second period. However the Lions finished the half strongly with an 11-4 run to head into the locker rooms 43-41 to the good.

When Howard Crawford scored for Lions early in the third quarter, it began looking ominous for the home team and even more so when he made a free-throw to take the visitors 60-54 in front and ten points ahead in the tie.

But, Raiders came storming back and heading into the last period, regained the lead on the night at 64-62. With five minutes remaining of a real roller-coaster game, the pendulum swing back to Lions after a triple by Nuno Pedroso put them 79-75 ahead.

Raiders needed inspiration when with less than a minute to play the game was tied and they looked to be crashing out.

Bell was the man who provided it as he firstly made the most of being fouled on a three-point attempt as he punished Lions by making all three free-throws and then, bringing Raiders level in the tie with a deep three-pointer.

It still gave Lions a chance but Pedroso couldn’t make a three-point shot on the last possession although two missed free-throws by Crawford moments earlier in between the heroics of Bell was probably the moment Lions truly blew their opportunity.

As the game went into overtime by virtue of the tie with Raiders 95-89 in front, they never looked back as they stepped up their defence and navigated an edgy last 60 seconds to book their place with Belly scoring 10 of his game-high 32 points in OT.

Lyons erupts after Sheffield slip in semi

Newcastle Eagles have one foot in the final of the BBL Trophy after a commanding 116-84 win at Sheffield in the semi-final first leg.

It is the fourth time that the Eagles have beaten the Sharks in all competitions this season, as they seek to win their third BBL Trophy in four years.

Joe Chapman led the way with 37 points, including 6/10 three-pointers, while Paul Gause had 26 points and 6 assists. Former Eagle Olu Babalola led the Sharks with 22 points, the hosts suffering from four technical fouls and two unsportsmanlike fouls in the game.

The damage was done in the second quarter, as the Eagles set about their hosts immediately, holding them scoreless for the first three minutes as they scored the first 13 points with Chapman getting 6 of those. The run continued as the first half lead peaked at 36-61 on a Chapman three-pointer inside the final minute of the half, as the Eagles won the second stanza 32-12.

And they were not threatened for the remainder of the game as Sharks’ Coach Atiba Lyons was ejected from the bench in the fourth after picking up his second technical foul of the game. Sheffield’s misery was compounded as the Eagles grew their lead to its peak at 75-109 on a Chapman three-pointer. Charles Smith added a triple on the buzzer to ensure that the Eagles take a 32-point advantage into the second leg.

Incensed, Lyons took to Twitter to attack the standard of refereeing – and the league. “I’m tired of holding my tongue for the sake of the league when those influencing decisions are clearly looking out for themselves,” he wrote. “Please can you guys send someone personally to the game so I can spoon after I get screwed.”

In the other semi-final first leg, MK Lions have taken a narrow six-point advantage after defeating Plymouth Raiders 87-81 in a fiery game. The Lions have now won three of their last four games, while the Raiders have seen a three-game winning streak ended. The Raiders, who won the Trophy in 2007, can take heart from the fact that they beat the Lions 92-76 on their home floor in the league encounter between the teams in November.

Demarius Bolds led all scorers with 31 points, including 10/10 free-throws, while Howard Crawford had 12 points and 9 rebounds.

In a tight game, the decisive run came in the third quarter. The Lions used a 12-2 surge to break a 50-50 tie with Bolds scoring 6 points, despite losing Daniel Northern during that run as he was ejected for an altercation with Anthony Rowe.

The Lions’ margin was rarely threatened in a tumultuous fourth quarter. They initially extended the lead to 74-60, its highest in the game, on a Bolds three-pointer before the Raiders chipped away at them to set up an exciting second leg. From 78-66 with four minutes to play the Raiders scored the next 5 points, and they had it down to 80-74 as Bell made an ‘and one’ play. Anthony Martin’s score for the Raiders on the buzzer means that the Lions’ lead is six points going into the second leg.

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