Worcester Wolves moved within four points of British Basketball League leaders Newcastle with a 98-78 win at Guildford Heat and saw them become the second team to qualify for the play-offs.
Paul James was left delighted with another excellent victory as his side took control early and never really looked back as Sherrad Prezzie-Blue fired a team-high 23 points.
For once, February’s BBL Player of the Month Tommy Freeman (above) did not have to stand out. Arnas Kazlauskas was again pivotal in this latest success, continuing his good work from Saturday’s win against Cheshire Jets into the early part of this game. He was on fire in the first quarter, paving the way for Wolves to take a 22-15 lead into the second period.
Wolves never looked like relinquishing their early superiority and indeed they managed to continue keeping the hosts at bay, enjoying a double digit advantage after successive three-pointers by David Watts.
They still held a healthy lead heading to the locker rooms at 40-29 at the half although it could have been even better had Martelle McLemore not drained a three-pointer on the buzzer for Heat to give his team hope for the second half.
However to beat a slick Wolves team being ably directed by Prezzie-Blue, the home side needed a little more than hope. It required a major improvement at both ends of the court but sadly for home fans, it didn’t arrive.
While Heat managed to more or less continue keeping pace with their opponent, they couldn’t make any significant inroads into the deficit and by the end of the third quarter, still trailed 70-56 – despite some nice work from Frank Holmes who had a game-high 24.
Anyone inside Surrey Sports Park hoping for a fight back from the home favourites and a subsequent thrilling finale were left sorely disappointed as Wolves eased their way to the win with yet another fine team performance.
Glasgow Rocks thrashed BBL strugglers Durham Wildcats 79-59 to pick up their fourth win in a row.
Scotland captain Gareth Murray hit a game-high 21 points as the Kelvin Hall outfit surged in front with an 18-2 run in the second quarter.
And Martin Malnieks capped a 14-2 burst in the fourth that sent the hosts as much as 31 clear.
The Rocks were without injured centre DeAundre Cranston as Andy Wedemire scored 13 in his place in the line-up.
He said: “It doesn’t matter that Durham are in last place, these are the games where you have to perform because you’re expected to win. You have to come out with intensity and we did that, especially in the second half.”
Saturday: Leicester hail Hardy buoy
Leicester Riders wingman Ayron Hardy was the star of Saturday night in the BBL as he claimed a spectacular and rare triple-double in a 97-86 victory against Sheffield.
The American produced one of the performances of the season as he poured in 20 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and dished up a marvellous 13 assists.
Already ahead by nine at the interval, Leicester outscored Sharks 24-14 during the third quarter to end the hopes of the visitors who rallied in the last period but it was too little too late.
Cameron Rundles top scored with 26 points for Riders while Mike Tuck had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Sharks.
A double-double by Ritchie Gordon and some terrific shooting by Lithuanian Arnas Kazlauskas paved the way for Worcester Wolves to overpower Cheshire Jets with a stunning last quarter as they rode out 95-79 winners.
“It was a tight game initially as both teams took their time to feel each other out,” explained Wolves coach Paul James.
“But, we really did pick things up during the second half and especially in the last quarter which was vital for us to get another win.”
Paul Williams claimed 20 points and 20 rebounds for Plymouth Raiders as they comfortably despatched basement club Durham Wildcats 92-70.
A devastating second quarter did the damage as Raiders followed up the terrific win at Sport Central against the Eagles with another victory to complete a more than satisfactory road trip.
But Gavin Love is not chasing the title yet.
“There are so many games left and with so many teams looking improved at the moment we are concentrating on solidifying our top four status,” he said.
Friday: Plymouth pull off Raid
A rare sight indeed. Plymouth Raiders inflicted only the second defeat of the BBL Championship season on the Newcastle Eagles with an 85-76 win on Tyneside on Friday night.
Despite the Raiders leading 66-56 at the end of the third period, the Eagles tried valiantly to get themselves back into the game and a Charles Smith three-pointer got them to within two points with 2:38 remaining, but that was as close as they would get as the visitors held off the onslaught and secured the victory from the foul-line in the closing stages.
It was, according to Eagles coach Fab Flournoy, his team’s “worst performance of the season.”
And although Newcastle still retain a six-point cushion at the top of the standings, it was a shot across their bows as they look ahead to a further encounter with Gavin Love’s men in the two-legged Trophy final.
The Raiders started the game strongly thanks to a 12-3 burst to open the contest, but the home side got themselves back on track thanks to an 11-3 tear.
In the second period the visitors took control of the contest as they broke the game open with a 17-5 burst and they headed into the locker rooms leading 45-31.
Plymouth continued to execute their offensive strategy went as much 55-33 in front after a 10-2 burst to open up the third period. A 14-3 run saw Newcastle close the gap to 66-56 headed into the fourth and although their rally continued, the Raiders – paced by 19 points apiece from Lehmon Colbert and Paul Williams – held firm.
Joe Chapman had a game-high 20 for the Eagles.
A back and forth game between Milton Keynes Lions and Guildford saw the Heat end up coming away with the 95-90 victory as Drew Lasker fired 22 points.
A 20-2 run in the final period from the Lions gave them the lead at 86-79, but an immediate 12-2 response from the Heat handed the visitors back the lead with 1:13 remaining and they did not relinquish that lead for the remainder of the contest.
In the final game of the night, Mersey Tigers kept their hopes of reaching the play-offs alive thanks to a 79-71 victory over Sheffield.
In a game that ebbed and flowed one way and the other throughout the contest and despite the home side trailing 40-35 at the half, the Tigers started the second half with a 9-4 run to tie the game at 44-44 and they kept up their strength throughout the third quarter to lead 60-55 heading into the final period.
The final period saw the Tigers – led by 22 from Marlon Capers – outscore their visitors 19-16 to hold on.
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