Less than two weeks to go and only four teams are left in the race to reach the Molten BBL Play-Off Final at the O2 Arena on Sunday 8th May.
For the first time since 2011, Esh Group Eagles Newcastle won’t be in the final after their season came to an end following a 191-187 aggregate defeat at the hands of Cheshire Phoenix.
Cheshire had a dream start to their Quarter-Final tie on Friday, recording a great 104-91 victory on Tyneside, behind a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds from Kinu Rochford.
The Eagles would not go down with a fight and in Sunday’s second leg they left everything on the table, taking a lead both in the game and on aggregate.
They would eventually win the game 96-87, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Phoenix who managed to come up big in the final moments with a steal and made free-throws.
“It was tough, we knew it was going to be,” said relieved Phoenix coach John Lavery.
“We knew they were going to push and push and push and make a run at us, but as long as we could weather the storm, I thought we’d be okay.”
The Phoenix’s reward for beating Newcastle is another tricky tie as they get ready to face Leicester Riders, who prevailed 158-133 against Play-Off debutants Leeds Force.
Having beaten Leicester recently, Leeds didn’t fear the league champions and put up a great fight in the first leg.
Kwan Waller had a game-high 21 points for the Force but the Riders, behind 19 points from Tyler Bernardini, were still able to snatch an 83-78 win.
In the second leg the Riders showed why they are the team to beat this season, comfortably winning 75-55 and moving one step closer to recording a treble for the second time in franchise history.
“Over the two legs I thought we did a heck of a job,” said Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro.
“This week we were really locked in and talked about holding them to under 140 [points] over the two legs.
“We did that and I could not be prouder of our defensive effort.”
Performance of the weekend has to go to Glasgow Rocks who left the Worcester Wolves shell-shocked following a 90-53 rout on Friday night, Kieron Achara the high man with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wolves tried to hit back on Sunday, cutting a 37-point deficit to 15 at one point, but the damage had already been done and despite losing the game, 88-83, the Rocks prevailed 173-141 on aggregate.
They will face Sheffield Sharks in the Semi-Final after the Sharks also used a big first leg lead to get past London Lions.
Sharks prevailed 94-70 in the opener and although the Lions chipped away at the deficit in Sunday’ssecond leg behind Demond Watt’s game-high 32 points, they could only get as close as nine points before the Yorkshire side hit back to put the tie out of reach.
Lions would win the game, 78-75, but Sharks won 169-148 overall.
“It feels good to be through,” said Sharks’ TJ Robinson, who had a team-high 19 points on Sunday.
“It was a tough game but this is the Play-Offs.
“I think we’re hitting our peak now and we need to keep prevailing and keep playing tough.”