Milton Keynes Lions made a winning debut at their new home in Winterhill but had to battle to see off Essex Pirates 79-73.

It was a third victory for Michael New’s side this season over their struggling rivals, who are now 0-15 in all competitions.

Travis Nelson was the toast of opening night after pouring in 29 points for the Lions.

League leaders Cheshire Jets moved two points clear at the top of the BBL by thrashing Plymouth Raiders 114-97.

Elsewhere Worthing Thunder lost 86-74 to Leicester Riders, who racked up a fourth successive win.

“I am very proud of the guys after the double overtime game on Saturday,” said Riders coach Rob Paternostro.

“The depth in the squad was important against Worthing. We knew it would be a hard game but we took control in the second quarter. The team were very professional. I am pleased that we have now won four matches in a row.”

Saturday: Riders down Wolves in 2OT thriller

Leicester Riders needed two extra periods of play to finally defeat the Worcester Wolves 124-118 at the John Sanford Centre.

The rivals battled out throughout the game with both sides trading leads throughout the closing stages but it was the Wolves who held the advantage heading into the dying seconds leading 99-96, but Ryan Zamroz – who hit a team-high 29 points – drained a three-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining tied the game at 99-99 to send the game into overtime.

In the first period, the Riders took control early on scoring the first seven points of the extra period, but could not break a resilient Wolves outfit as Roderick Middleton bagged a couple of three-pointers and despite a Zamroz basket to take the score out to 110-107, Daniel Gilbert netted a three-pointer for the Wolves with 8.8 seconds left in overtime to tie the game at 110-110 and send the game into a second period of overtime.

In the second period, the Wolves this time took an early lead thanks to a three-point play from Gilbert to lead 112-113, but that was the last time that the visitors were to lead in the game as a combination of Zamroz, Phil Missere and Tony Windless secured the victory for the Riders. Gilbert scored a game-high 32.

In the other game on Saturday night, Guildford Heat enjoyed a little more comfort as they overcame the power of joint leaders Cheshire Jets 86-69 to move themselves up into fourth position in the table.

After a close first half which saw the home side leading 46-41 heading into the second half, the visitors bagged the first five points of the second half to tie the game at 46-46, but a pair of free-throws from Dean Williams sparked a 17-2 burst from the home side to lead 63-48.

The Jets tried valiantly to get themselves back into the game but could not get any closer than 13 points at 80-67 with less than two minutes remaining, but the Heat secured the victory from the foul-line.

Julius Joseph top-scored for the Heat with 17 points while Ricardo Greer led all scorers in the game with 21 points for the Jets.

“I hope that this win will give us more respect from other teams in the league,” said Guildford Head Coach Creon Raftopoulos.

“I am happy with the team cohesion right now and as can be seen from the box score everyone is chipping in and we are not relying on one big player.  I also hope that we will continue to get better especially as David Schneider is still not 100% fit.”

Friday: Newcastle quell Thunder

Newcastle Eagles escaped with a victory in a titanic battle with Worthing Thunder, winning 88-87 on Tyneside.

However the hosts, still bearing the psychological scars of their mid-week Cup exit at the hands of Mersey Tigers, were pushed all the wire by the struggling visitors who rallied back from a first quarter deficit to threaten a major upset of the league champions.

Eagles needed to use all their experience over the last two minutes to put together a 6-4 run which handed them the win. A Darius Defoe (pictured) three-point play was the crucial score as Thunder fell just short.

Worthing had the best possible start when Sherrad Prezzie-Blue landed a three to give the visitors the first points of the match. The lead didn’t last long though as a 9-0 burst put Eagles in control.

Darius Defoe came up big for Newcastle

Thunder responded with a 5-0 run of their own, capped by three-point play from Adam Williams to pull within one at 11-10. And they still trailed by one before Newcastle closed the first quarter with a 12-4 run to lead 27-18.

An Aaron Nielsen three greeted Thunder as they began the second quarter to stretch Eagles’ advantage to 30-18. Kadiri Richard maintained the 12 point margin before his former side began to find their range again.

A three and a two from Prezzie-Blue pulled it back to 34-28 and a further 11-2 run handed Thunder the lead at 39-41 on Marlin Capers’ triple.

Newcastle’s response was immediate. Trey Moore levelled the match, Charles Smith put Eagles back in front and Darius Defoe made it a four point game.

However, Worthing had the last word of the half with a third three by Prezzie-Blue to make it 45-44 to Eagles at the interval.

Eagles controlled the third quarter for long periods to extend their lead to 62-55. A Petroslav Zafirov three helped Worthing close to 65-62 with just the final stanza to play.

The lead changed hands several times with back-to-back Adam Williams threes giving Thunder their largest one of the quarter at 80-77. Eagles refused to panic though and once Defoe had broken a tie at 85-85, they held on for the narrowest of victories.

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