Mersey Tigers made history on Friday night when they came up short in Plymouth, as a 93-79 reverse left the troubled Liverpool club in sole possession of the longest losing streak in BBL history with their 31st consecutive loss.
The Tigers, who have not won since beating Milton Keynes on April 15 2012, are 0-30 this season in all competitions, putting them on course to become the first side ever to go through a top-flight campaign without achieving a victory, having been out-scored in the league by an average of 32 points.
It comes less than two years after the side won the championship before going into a speedy financial meltdown.
In the first quarter, there were brief hopes that this might be the night their misery ended. But the Raiders – led by 26 points and 9 rebounds from Javarris Barnett – really turned the screw in the second, out-scoring their visitors 31-6.
The lead very quickly went into double-digits as Jamal Williams scored the first 5 points; and, from 26-20, they held their visitors scoreless for four minutes and registered 14 points of their own – with Matt Schneck and Barnett sharing 10 of those – to take a 40-20 lead. That only stretched further as they went on to score the last 12 points of the half, ending with consecutive triples from Barnett and Williams, as the score became 52-22 and the Tigers were allowed just one basket in 7.40 in a 26-2 surge.
Little changed in the third quarter, despite the Tigers posting an early 10 unanswered points to get the deficit down to 60-38 with Phil Wait scoring 4 points. But that was undone as the Raiders finished the period with an 11-2 run, sparked by another pair of O’Reilly triples as he and Schneck combined once more to score the first ten of those points.
The Raiders took a 79-47 lead into the last ten minutes. And it was just as well, because the Tigers had possibly their best quarter of the season, winning it 32-14 although it was too late to change the outcome. They set about that immediately with a 16-0 run.
Mersey, paced by Nathan Schall’s 29 points and 16 rebounds, got as close as 12 points in the final minute, but ultimately never threatened to avoid their ignominious fate.
And one further defeat will see their inexperienced side take the mark of consecutive losses within a single season, held jointly by Worthing Bears and London Capital.
Newcastle prolong title race
Newcastle Eagles survived a late comeback to win the North East derby against the Durham Wildcats 96-92 at Sports Central.
The result means league leaders Leicester will have to wait until Sunday at least to clinch the title but the reigning champions again looked worthy runners-up.
The hosts had far the better of the first half as they ended the first quarter with 9 of the last 11 points and scored 12 in a row to end the second quarter sparked by Charles Smith’s three-pointer and including 5 for Anthony Martin, with only Brad Guinane’s late three-pointer pegging them back to 54-40 at the half.
And the game looked to be won as they opened the fourth quarter with an early 8-0 tear. The score was 93-75 heading in to the last five minutes when the Wildcats came storming all the way back to get to within one possession: their run was 17-1 over a four and a half minute period with Page adding another 6 as Ralph Bucci’s ‘and-one’ play made the score 94-92 with 10 seconds to play. But Joe Chapman kept his team’s Championship hopes alive as he made 2/2 at the free-throw line to settle the game.
Six players scored more than 20 points as Smith led the way with 27 and 10 rebounds, supported by Darius Defoe’s 24 points and 11 boards; Keith Page scored 26 in vain for the Wildcats.
Elsewhere, Sheffield Sharks made it four wins in a row in the month of March, and a second highly impressive victory of this week, as they beat the Worcester Wolves 78-73. The Wolves brought a seven game winning streak into this one, having been unbeaten in two months and unbeaten on the road since 5 January.
Sharks produced perhaps their best half of the season in the first, but the Wolves almost matched that in the second to send the game right down to the wire.
Atiba Lyons’ men posted a dominant 25-5 run in the first quarter as Mike Tuck scored 9 early points and they sank 8/8 free-throws late in the period to lead 31-17, the Wolves recovering to score 8 points in the final minute. And they stretched that lead as Nick Lewis and Andrew Bridge hit three-pointers in the second to put the hosts 50-27 in front.
But that all changed dramatically in the third quarter. The visitors, fresh out of the changing room, set about narrowing the gap with a 12-1 push as Alex Owumi hit five points and Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and Kai Williams added three-pointers to make the score 53-39. Ola Babalola settled the Sharks, but not for long as the Wolves rattled off another 11 straight points in what became a spell that nearly matched Sheffield’s first half efforts: 23-3 over an eight minute period to make the score 55-50 on Carlos Fernandez’s basket. The Sharks settled the ship and still led 74-67 with a minute to play in the game.
From there, Arnas Kazlauskas led Worcester’s last stand with a three-pointer, matched by Owumi with 12 seconds left after they forced a turnover, making it a one-point game at 74-73 with 12 seconds left. Nick Lewis held his nerve at the line for the Sharks to sink 2/2 before both Prezzie-Blue and Kazlauskas had opportunities to tie the game from beyond the arc; after the second miss Tuck snatched the rebound and, fittingly, settled the game with the last two free-throws.
“We unfortunately allowed the Sharks to get away early and had to play catch-up the rest of the game. We fought back well, but couldn’t quite do enough,” Wolves’ assistant coach Alex Radu whose side host Manchester on Saturday. “We will put this game behind us and look to get back to securing the wins we need for a high play-off placing.”
Surrey Heat put on a dominant second half display to rout the Cheshire Phoenix 108-89, bouncing back from consecutive league defeats. Travis Holmes led the Heat with 30 points and 9 assists, supported by 22 points and 8 rebounds from Sam Cricelli.
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