Leicester Riders will face Sheffield Sharks in next Saturday’s BBL Trophy Final after the Midlands outfit sealed a 148-141 aggregate semi-final win over Worcester Wolves, despite losing the second leg of their semi 68-66.
After Leicester claimed a 82-73 victory at Worcester on Friday, the hosts immediately strengthened their position by scoring the first five points of this game to take their lead to double-digits in the tie.
Riders were generally in control for the most of the opening period, although a buzzer beating triple by Lithuanian forward Arnas Kazlauskas brought Wolves back to within a point at 15-14 heading into the second quarter.
But, Paul James soon had his Wolves players back in a huddle after Riders began to raise the tempo and a couple of transition baskets helped them score eight of the first nine points in the second quarter. Minutes later, they went 34-22 ahead, only for Wolves to rally in the dying moments of the half and reduce the gap dramatically to 34-30, after eight unanswered points and including buzzer beater from downtown by Owumi.
Sensing their opportunity, Wolves and specifically Owumi, picked up where they left off and stunned the home crowd with a scorching 12-2 run to grab the initiative at 42-36 and make the tie a one-shot game.
Riders needed a response and Zaire Taylor provided it with seven points in a row, a triple putting Riders back on the front-foot at 43-42. However, the pendulum swing back to Wolves in the last quarter when they threatened to turn the tie on its’ head by going 61-51 in front and also ahead in the tie, thanks to some great work by Sherrad Prezzie-Blue.
It set up a dramatic and nerve shredding finale and as Wolves continued to keep their noses in front on the night and threaten to spoil the party at 68-62 with two minutes left, but Taylor eased home fans’ fears with a massive triple to drive a dagger through the visitors’ hearts.
With Wolves unable to add to their tally, Taylor made one further free-throw for Riders which sealed the deal and helped punched their ticket for Glasgow next weekend despite their first home loss of the campaign.
Wolves will be ruing 11 missed free-throws, as they allowed a glorious opportunity to advance, to slip painfully through their fingers.
24 hours earlier, Sheffield booked their spot with a 102-74 victory over Cheshire Phoenix in the second leg of their semi-final, progressing with a 176-134 aggregate win.
A pair of threes scored by BJ Holmes started Sharks on a 15-4 tear that left them ahead 28-18 early in the second quarter and from there the Sharks never looked back as they claimed a comfortable victory over a Phoenix side missing both Chez Marks and Jerome Gumbs.
All the Sharks players made it onto the scoresheet, with BJ Holmes, Olu Babalola and Demetrius Jemison all scoring 16 points to jointly lead the Sharks scorers. Sharks enjoyed a great night from beyond the arc, making a total of 14 of 27 attempts from long range, with Micah Williams scoring all 15 of his points from long range.
BBL: Newcastle keep up chase
There were three home wins for Surrey Heat, London Lions and Glasgow Rocks on Sunday night in the BBL Championship.
Lions beating next weekend’s BBL Trophy finalists Sheffield 86-78, as Rod Brown on his debut with 15 points and nine assists for the capital side.
Heat eased their way past a depleted Cheshire Phoenix side missing top scorer Chez Marks by 87-78 to halt a five game losing streak as Travis Holmes, Frank Holmes and Julius Joseph combined for 64 points, whilst Chavis Holmes dished up 12 assists.
Rocks panned Durham with a stunning 24-2 run either side of half-time to win 88-66 at the Emirates Arena, Jamie Vanderbeken and Gareth Murray putting the visitors to the sword from the perimeter with seven triples between them, with Andy Wedemire adding a game-high 17.
In the only BBL Championship game of Friday night, Newcastle Eagles thrashed Mersey Tigers 100-57 to maintain their BBL Championship title challenge.
Eagles dominated from the first quarter, where they outscored Tigers 35-10. Joe Chapman scored 15 of the Eagles’ first quarter points, making two threes as he did so. They maintained that throughout the game and while the Tigers were able to compete more effectively in the second half, they slumped to a 29th loss in a row.
Joe Chapman led all scorers for Eagles, finishing with 26 points, in addition to 4 steals. Charles Smith, Darius Defoe and Kareem Maddox all had double-doubles for the Eagles. For Tigers, their scorers were led by Chris Bigley’s 11 points.
The other three games all take place on Sunday, with Durham Wildcats out to take revenge when they entertain Glasgow Rocks for the second time in the space of a fortnight. Having suffered a heavy defeat in their last match-up, they need to use this loss to motivate themselves to get the win since they are in danger of losing ground in the play-off race.
Rocks’ versatile forward Andrew Wedemire is expecting a backlash and prepared for a big challenge. “They have been giving a lot of teams some really hard games and (Ralph) Bucci is the main guy since he puts everything together for them,” the Canadian said.
“We played really good team defence and got out in transition last time, but we still must work on consistent movement on the offensive end.”
Seventh placed London Lions have established some daylight between themselves and the play-off chasing pack in recent weeks. Now, Vince Macaulay and his Lions players have the chance to move to 12 wins and continue their winning streak, when they host.
Meanwhile in the final game of the weekend, Cheshire host Surrey Heat to Northgate Arena on Sunday evening, with both teams desperately needing a victory. Phoenix will want to continue their play-off bid by taking their number of league wins into double-digits, while the Heat’s previously excellent season is in danger of coming apart.
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