Image courtesy: Graham Virtue

Mersey Tigers moved to the top of the BBL Championship but had to battle to secure a 93-88 win at Worcester Wolves on Saturday. But they were joined by Cheshire Jets on 6-1 as they saw off Worthing.

Tony Garbelotto’s men inflicted a fourth successive defeat on their hosts but on the second night of a back-to-back weekend the Tigers were slow off the mark as Wolves raced out to a 7-0 lead. Threes by Kastytis Normantas and David Watts helped Wolves open a 19-9 lead before  the visitors fought back to trail 22-16 at the end of the first quarter.

A three point barrage awaited the Wolves in the second quarter as Tigers took charge. James Jones, Andrew Thomson and Nate Reinking all connected twice from beyond the arc as the visitors levelled at 34-34 before moving 42-51 ahead by half time.

Tigers continued to extend their lead with a three from Jones sparking a 15-5, which took the score to 54-70. Worcester refused to lie down though and a 9-0 burst to close the third period brought them back to trail 63-70.

Five points to begin the final stanza asserted Tigers’ authority again at 75-63 but Wolves gradually began to chip away at their lead. Watts capped a 9-0 burst with a three to make it 79-76 and Justin Dobbins made it a one point game at 89-88 with 35 seconds remaining.

Paul James team couldn’t quite make it back though as Great Britain skipper Andrew Sullivan scored a two and then sank two from the line to take his game-hight tally to 27 points and secure an excellent road win for Tigers.

Worcester coach Paul James said: “I cannot fault the effort from the Wolves tonight. We were embarrassed last week and faced another tough game this week.

“We were down big in the third quarter but showed great character to get very close to winning the match. However, missing 15 points from the free throw line in a five point game against a high quality team was crucial in the end.”

Their advantage stood until Sunday when Cheshire Jets defeated Worthing Thunder 81-75 in a battle at Northgate Arena despite the ongoing absence of Matt Schneck.

After a tight first half, the home team looked to have broken the game open during the third quarter when they established a double digit lead and again when they led by eleven points heading down the stretch but plucky Worthing dug deep to set up an exciting finale.

Jets had Jeremy Bell and Quemont Greer to thank for scraping over the line with the pair racking up 57 points between them with the latter completing a double-double – a feat also achieved by Colin O’Reilly.

Glasgow Rocks, led by 24 points from French guard Moses Mubarek, defeated Worthing Thunder 84-68, who were paced by 19 from Sherrad Prezzie-Blue on his first appearance since re-joining the club.

Leicester Riders emerged victorious by snatching a 82-80 win over Milton Keynes Lions following a titanic fourth quarter battle.

Robert Youngblood helped Leicester to a weekend double (Ville Vuorinen /

Threes on three consecutive possessions gave Riders a 69-60 advantage and they were keeping the Lions at bay until a Jelani Gardner three brought the visitors back to 77-76.

As free throws were exchanged Gardner was fouled on a three point shot with 8.8 seconds remaining and Lions down 81-77. But he missed all three to allow Leicester – led by 28 from JR Blount –  enough room to go on to a crucial victory.

And the Riders made it a double 24 hours later by producing a fourth-quarter surge to see off Essex Pirates 101-82.

It leaves the rock bottom Pirates on 0-14 this season after they fought bravely before losing 89-73 to Guildford Heat on Saturday. Runs of 11-0 and 13-0 gave Heat a 28-9 first quarter advantage and although the hosts rallied to within 7 in the fourth quarter, the visitors surged again with a decisive 10-3 run.

“We’re happy to get the win but would have liked it to be more comfortable,” said Heat coach Creon Raftopoulos. “Credit to Essex though as they played really hard.”

Sharks end Cheshire’s perfect run

Cheshire Jets unbeaten start to the BBL Championship is over after they were pipped 79-78 by Sheffield Sharks at the EIS. Mike Tuck scored the winning basket with 24 seconds remaining as the hosts moved joint top of the table.

The Sharks led through the first three quarters, by as many as 17 approaching half time, but had to survive a late scare as the Jets opened the fourth with a massive 17-4 push, going 71-68 ahead on Colin O’Reilly’s three-pointer.

Gareth Murray hit a triple of his own to ensure that the Jets led 78-74 going into the final minute, before a late rescue from the hosts. Steve Dagostino made a pair of free-throws, before Ryan Patton stole the ball and scored a lay-up and Tuck scored with 24 seconds left. They contained the Jets on the final possession, not allowing them to get a shot off, to secure a crucial win.

Dagostino led the Sharks with 24 points, while Tuck and Paul Williams each had 15.

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