Mersey Tigers, hamstrung by injuries and suspensions, suffered only their second BBL defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 91-86 at Plymouth Raiders.

With the visitors fielding just six players in the absence of Drew Sullivan, David Aliu and Nate Reinking, Plymouth took advantage but were forced to battle until the final quarter to claim victory.

Lehmon Colbert put the Raiders in the lead for good with a three-point shot to make it 83-82 and four late Evaldas Zabas free throws made the game safe. Chez Marks hit a game-high 24 points to pace Plymouth. James Jones and Tafari Toney hit 24 for the league leaders.

Guildford Heat picked up a priceless win before a sell-out crowd, destroying Essex Pirates 84-63 on Sunday.

The troubled Surrey outfit had called for a mass support amid their current financial troubles and they pulled off a convincing win. Veteran Ronnie Baker made an impressive debut for Essex to lead all scorers with 17 points.

Cheshire Jets held off Milton Keynes Lions 108-106 in a pulsating game at the Northgate Arena with Jeremy Bell sounding the clarion call with a 41-point haul.

The Jets trailed by six with 70 seconds remaining but Bell knocked down a three and then it was Colin O’Reilly who settled the tie with 6 seconds left, converting the decisive field goal with Stefan Gill’s last desperate three-point attempt missing the mark.

Travis Nelson fired 34 for the visitors.

Elsewhere, Glasgow Rocks fought off a brave challenge from short-handed Leicester Riders for a 88-81 win which sends them into a share of third place.

Down 13-6 early on, Brice Fantazia sparked the Rocks to life as they reeled off 9 points in a row to surge ahead.

Leicester hit back after slumping 51-35 behind at half-time but Sterling Davis’ men never let the battling visitors get closer than 5 in the fourth quarter.

“Leicester is a good team whether they’re down a few guys or not,” said Davis. “But I liked the way we kept on them, especially after losing last week. I like my team. It’s a good group. Defensively, we work hard. I’d like to be higher in the league but we’re in a good position if we keep pushing.”

Saturday: Z-List showing sparks Plymouth

Plymouth Raiders coach Gavin Love watched his team pick up a rare road win at Worthing as Evaldas Zabas torched his former team for 31 points.

The 115-83 victory was another sweet moment in a very sweet week for Love who was quick to praise his team for their performance.

“The first half was tough and we took our eye off the ball after a good first quarter,” he said.

“In the end it was a good solid team performance but we have a few things to work on. Overall it was a very satisfactory result.”

As well as the contribution of Zabas, there was an encouraging debut for debutant Jerome Gumbs who was highly efficient on his way to 17 points with 8 of 9 shooting. Sherrad Prezzie-Blue hit 32 for the struggling Thunder who rallied late but in vain.

“That was probably the best quarter of basketball we have played since I have been here.” explained the Thunder guard, Sherrad Prezzie-Blue.

“We played as a unit, defended well, managed to get great looks at the basket and it translated into a comeback.”

“The game felt so good at points and we showed a lot of promise. I feel we are close to being able to get wins but we have to put a full 40 minutes together.”

The Raiders move level with Leicester Riders who lost a nail-biter 80-78 at home to second placed Cheshire Jets despite another perimeter shooting master-class from Ryan Zamroz.

However it wasn’t to be for the Riders fans who felt their team were denied a victory in the dying moments when veteran Robert Youngblood rimmed out on a three with three seconds remaining and Jo Harris then went tumbling on the offensive rebound but he didn’t get a chance to get to the line.

The win was a super one for the Jets who had Gareth Murray to thank for some big shots as he supported the usual suspects Quemont Greer and Jeremy Bell in the scoring stakes.

Elsewhere, Mersey Tigers strengthened their grip at the summit of the BBL Championship as they gained sweet revenge for their only league defeat to date by beating their conquerors from earlier in the season.

Tony Garbelotto watched his team shrug off a sluggish start to put in a powerful 25-10 third quarter performance which broke the game and helped his team secure a 90-70 success over MK Lions.

The win was also impressive since it was achieved without the services of Great Britain star Nate Reinking who was sidelined with an injury.

Lions continue their search for the right chemistry this season and they competed well during the first quarter in particular to get their noses in front.

Indeed as the teams headed for the locker room at the half-time interval, Mike New will have still fancied his team to continue causing problems but they were all at sea during the third quarter and had no answer to the superior quality of the Tigers.

New could only watch in vain as the home team, led by 23 from Drew Sullivan, took control and then never looked like relinquishing it.

Friday: Sharks, Eagles claw forth

Sheffield Sharks shook off some early ring rust to demolish Essex Pirates 82-42 on Friday night to remain on the fringes of the BBL title picture.

The visitors handed a debut to Australian Marcus Chung at the EIS but fell to another heavy reverse as they remain winless at the foot of the standings.

Essex have also signed 40-year-old ex-England captain Ronnie Baker who is set for a return to the top flight but in his absence, the youthful Pirates were no match for the Sharks.

With Steve D’Agostino hitting a game-high 22 points, the hosts recovered from a 10-0 early deficit to go in front for good with a 16-3 reply.

Up 36-21 at half-time, Atiba Lyons’ men imposed themselves and with Marcus Stout adding 19, they turned the screw. Taner Adu led Essex with 11.

Elsewhere, Joe Chapman delivered a dominating display, scoring 28 points and snatching 12 rebounds, as Newcastle Eagles thrashed Guildford Heat 98-70.

After leading 29-17 at the end of the first period, the true damage was done as Fab Flournoy’s men held the Heat scoreless for four and a half minutes in the second stanza, extending the lead to 45-20 as Andrew Bridge’s triple capped an 11-0 burst.

And the reigning champions kept rolling as the Heat- paced by 23 from Julius Joseph – suffered a damaging reverse ahead of next weekend’s Cup final.

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