What a difference a year makes.

Tail end of March last year and Leeds Force had just been eliminated from Play-Off contention.

Matt Newby’s new boys had put up a decent fight throughout the season but it was not enough and they would have to sit and watch as fellow BBL rookies Bristol Flyers, an old sparring partner from their National League days, would go on to claim that final post-season place.

A little over 12 months later and it’s Leeds Force who are celebrating having sealed their place on the last day of the regular season. Bristol meanwhile, missed out.

“It really means a lot,” said the Force coach of reaching the Play-Offs.

“I’ve been in senior British basketball for ten years, starting back in Division Four as Leeds Metropolitan University, before we became Leeds Carnegie and then evolving into Leeds Force.

“That journey has been incredible, but that’s testimony to generations of players who bought into a vision and the backroom staff who have been driving us on.

“I’m just thankful to be in a really, really great position and I feel privileged to be at the helm of a Play-Off contender.”

Only a few weeks back it looked as if Leeds’ latest Play-Off bid was going to fall short again. The Force had begun to climb the table on the back of their excellent home form, but the odds were still against them.

Yet, every time I spoke to Newby, his message was the same; ‘we can make it’. From speaking to some of his players, they believed they would too.

Then, just over a fortnight ago, came the pivotal moment of the season when hope turned into a real possibility.

Leeds were due to take on Leicester Riders at home, a team who had not lost on the road all season.

A defeat for Leeds followed by a victory on the Sunday for Plymouth Raiders would ensure the Devon side wrapped up the last available Play-Off spot and the Force would once more be left on the outside looking in.

But they weren’t about to give up and after pulling off one of the upsets of the season by beating Leicester, their determination was rewarded when Plymouth dropped two straight games.

Leeds’ Play-Off hopes were now in their own hands and they came into the final weekend knowing two wins would see them into the Play-Offs, regardless of how Plymouth fared.

And that’s just what they went out and did, beating both the Manchester Giants and a determined Surrey Scorchers side to bag eighth place and a seal a match-up with league champions Leicester.

Not many people are giving the Force a chance to beat the Riders this coming weekend, but then Newby doesn’t mind as no-one gave them a chance last time either.

“Are they beatable? I think we’ve already proved that,” said the Force coach.

“Do I think it’s a tough ask? I’m not going to say anything now.”

Newby added, “In terms of where we go next, we’ve proved we can match them.

“I don’t think we’re over-confident, I think we know that if we prepare for teams then we will be in games.

“Scouting, that’s where the success has come from this season, we’ve done a good job of preparing for teams.

“Whether it’s the top team or the one at the bottom of the league, as long as you manage the team you make sure they are ready and prepared.”

For all the preparation they’ve put in this week, there’s one thing Newby knows needs to happen when they take to the court on Friday and Saturday.

“Ultimately, if we’re going to beat Leicester,” he said, “we know we have to be perfect.”



BBL Playoffs, quarter-final 1st legs (7.30). Glasgow Rocks v Worcester Wolves, Leeds Force v Leicester Riders, Newcastle Eagles v Cheshire Phoenix, Sheffield Sharks v London Lions


BBL Playoffs, quarter-final 2nd leg. Leicester Riders v Leeds Force (7.30)


BBL Playoffs, quarter-final 2nd leg. Worcester Wolves v Glasgow Rocks (4pm), Cheshire Phoenix v Newcastle Eagles (5.30), London Lions v Sheffield Sharks (4pm)

pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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