Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles are on the brink of a place at Wembley after drawing first blood in the first legs of their BBL Play-Offs semi-finals on Friday night.
The Riders travelled down to the southwest of England to meet Plymouth Raiders and came away from the Pavilions with a 14-point advantage after they defeated the Raiders 88-66 on Friday night.
A strong second quarter from the Riders helped them open up a 44-34 half-time lead, but the Raiders came back at them in the third period and managed to trim the deficit back to just six points at 53-59 heading into the final stanza.
The final period saw both sides vying for that all-important advantage heading into the second leg, but it was the League Champion Riders who secured the victory in the end thanks in no small part to the efforts of Anthony Rowe and Zaire Taylor as they each bagged 18 points in the victory.
The second leg is scheduled for Sunday for Loughborough University the Riders will be hoping that they can hold off the Raiders to secure their berth in their third Final of the season.
Newcastle Eagles enjoyed a little more comfort as they overcame the Surrey Heat 110-82 at Sport Central
31 points from Damon Huffman, ably assisted by another 30 point-haul from Charles Smith, was enough to help the title holders on their way to the comfortable victory.
The Eagles broke the game open right at the start of the second period as they leapt in 45-25 lead off the back of a 20-4 run, including nine points from Huffman. The Heat responded immediately with a 14-5 run to get the deficit back to 11 points at 50-39 with 2:16 left in the second period, but the hosts ended the half on a 8-0 tear move 57-39 ahead at half-time.
In the second half, the home side continued to extend their advantage throughout the third quarter with the lead peaking at 27 points with the score at 73-46 thanks to another Smith basket midway through the quarter. The Heat tried desperately to get themselves back into the contest, but Newcastle were able to keep them at bay and headed into the final period 80-57 in front, leaving Surrey with a huge amount to do on Sunday evening in Guildford.
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