BBL Trophy holders, Mersey Tigers, provided some reassurances over their competitiveness this season, breaking their duck at the second attempt with an 83-78 win over Cheshire Jets at the Northgate Arena on Sunday.

The visitors started strongly, but the home side came right back into the game in the second period as they restricted the Tigers to just 12 points in the quarter to open up a four point lead at 38-34 heading in at the half.

The second half saw the Jets extend their lead in the third period, but the Tigers stormed their way back into the game in the final quarter thanks in no small part to a 12-4 burst at the start of the period to trim the deficit back to two points at 65-63.

The Jets extended their lead to four points at 71-67 through a Colin O’Reilly basket, but a Myles Hesson three-pointer sparked an 11-3 tear to give the Tigers the lead at 74-78 with 1:24 remaining on the clock.  The home side, paced by 20 points from Matt Scheck, tried valiantly to get themselves back into the game but the visitors were able to hold on and secure the victory from the foul-line.

Keith Douse hit a team-high 19 points for Mersey.

Glasgow Rocks prevailed in their first Kelvin Hall appearance of the new campaign, defeating Durham Wildcats 75-70 to keep alive their ambitions in the BBL Trophy. It was not an entirely convincing debut, Sterling Davis’ revamped squad left with more questions than answers by a team which was playing only the third top flight game in its history.

To advance into the semi-finals of the competition, Davis’ men must still win on their inaugural visit to Durham next Saturday, and then defeat Newcastle by 23 the following day, to overtake the Eagles in the standings. The former should be manageable. The latter, however, will require further improvements.

“There’s a lot to work on,” Davis admitted. “At times, I thought we played well defensively but there was a lot of inconsistency and that’s a concern. They seemed to lull us to sleep. We didn’t do a good job of closing out the game and we’ll need to be much better to beat Newcastle.”

After a first quarter that saw the lead exchanged nine times, Mychal Green – who had a team-best 19 points – scored twice in quick succession early in the second to seize control for the hosts and an 8-2 run solidified their advantage. And Davis’ ploy to seek greater depth to his squad this term appeared astute with seven players contributing offensively as Glasgow went 40-32 in front at half-time.

However the Wildcats demonstrated that they may be a tougher proposition than most of the BBL’s recent additions in their debut campaign. An 11-2 burst in the third saw the visitors edge 48-47 ahead before six unanswered points put Glasgow ahead for good. And ultimately, Durham – led by 24 from veteran guard Ralph Bucci – could not quite find the impetus required in the fourth period to capitalise on the Rocks flaws.

Saturday: Raiders roll

Plymouth Raiders gained their second successive victory in the BBL Trophy after convincingly defeating the Worcester Wolves 85-62 on Saturday evening. It is now likely that Wolves will need to win both their remaining games in the competition, at Raiders and at Guildford Heat, to have any chance of further progress.

Gordon: efforts in vain

Towards the end of a tight first quarter, Worcester trailed 15-17, but then allowed their former point guard Anthony Martin to score at the buzzer.

The hosts soon tied the game in the second period as a determined Richie Gordon made the first two baskets, and they even took the lead four minutes in when Gordon scored again to make the score 25-24. But the advantage was short-lived as Michael Ojo gave the visitors the edge back on the next play, for a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish on the way to a 38-32 half-time edge.

A disastrous third quarter for the Wolves sealed their fate. Raiders’ tall American pairing of Paul Williams and Lehmon Colbert dominated play close to the basket, both scoring freely, and both muscling their way to numerous rebounds. Entering the last quarter of the game Plymouth had built an insurmountable 67-45 lead, an advantage which would have been even greater but for inconsistent free throw shooting.

In stark contrast to his 29-point performance in the previous weekend’s overtime win against Guildford, forward Tommy Freeman was held scoreless until the final period. A consolation late ten points from Freeman helped Worcester to prevent the final margin of defeat climbing much higher.

Gordon top-scored for Wolves with 20 points, with Sherrad Prezzie-Blue with 14 points and Freeman with 10 being the only other double-digit scorers for the home side. Colbert led the way for the Raiders with a massive 34 points and 12 rebounds.

A disappointed Wolves coach Paul James said: “We knew Plymouth were going to be physical and tough inside. We held them well in the first half, but then had a sticky third period where they basically ran over us.”


Friday: Sharks bite Tigers

A double-double by Justin Dobbins propelled Sheffield to a 99-56 win in the BBL Trophy over Mersey Tigers as the holders crashed on their delayed debut.

It was after the first break that Sheffield’s power began to tell. Former Tiger Nate Reinking gave Sharks their first double-digit lead at 32-21 with a three and from then on Mersey struggled to stay in touch.

The half ended with a Sheffield 49-32 on top and they pressed home their advantage in the third quarter, going as much as 34 in front by the close.

Newcastle Eagles gave BBL new boys Durham Wildcats a lesson in top-flight ruthlessness with a comfortable 92-72 victory at Sport Central.

The experienced duo of Charles Smith and Joe Chapman proved to be constant thorn in the side of the Wildcats as the Eagles won each quarter to ease to a 20 point win.

The Wildcats remained close during the first quarter to trail by just two after ten minutes.

Newcastle edged further away in the second quarter to take a 42-36 lead into the interval. And the home team stretched that out to 14 by the end of the third period.

Fab Flournoy’s team never looked in danger of giving up their advantage in the final period as their lead peaked at 90-65 on a Darius Defoe two.

“Our defence really got us through the game as it took us a long time to get any offensive fluency,” said Flournoy.

“Durham were helped by having Mario Flaherty playing and really tested us in that they hung around and worked the shot clock well.

“We know all about Bucci who again played well but both Hinnenkamp and Capocci have showed enough in two games against us for me to believe they will be solid players in this league. Chris Pearce also brought a lot of energy for them.”

A big first quarter made the difference for MK Lions as they saw off Leicester Riders 107-90.

Leicester fell behind 35-17 on a Nathan Schall two before gradually chipping away at the Lions lead. Ayron Hardy brought them back to 45-36 but Lions put together a 12-4 run before half time to lead 57-40.

Lions still led 75-59 heading into the fourth quarter before taking it out to 100-77 on a Schall dunk.

Stefan Gill led all scorers for Lions with 26.

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