Leeds Force caused one of the shocks of the season on Friday as they upset BBL Championship leaders to Leicester Riders to throw the title race – and push for the Play-Offs – wide open.
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle took advantage of the opportunity to draw level on points with Riders as they beat Glasgow Rocks and set up a crunch meeting with the Leicester club in seven days‘ time.
And London Lions got back to winning ways with a hot-shooting performance against Worcester Wolves.
Leeds Force 81 (18, 43, 62)(Waller 29, Klassen 15, Marsden 11)
Leicester Riders 78 (21, 43, 57)(Watson 31, Bernardini 14, Sullivan 12)
Leeds Force sent shockwaves through the BBL with an 81-78 defeat of league leaders Leicester Riders on Friday.
The results sees Esh Group Eagles Newcastle draw level on points with Riders at the top of the table with just three games to play – and the teams set to meet in seven days‘ time.
The Yorkshire club went into the game having lost all six of their previous meetings with Riders and knowing they must win their remaining games and hope other results go their way to earn a spot in the BBL Play-Offs.
Riders, on the other hand, had won their previous 17 away games and last 12 overall.
But it was clear from the outset this was going to be a difficult night for Rob Paternostro’s men.
It was nip-and-tuck well into the second half until a 7-0 mini-run late in the third quarter allowed Leeds to enter the final 10 minutes in front.
The teams were tied with 16 seconds to play when Rob Marsden came up with the decisive play, tipping in the Kwan Waller miss to give his team the lead.
Drew Sullivan had an opportunity to tie but could not connect and Marek Klassen rounded off the scoring from the free-throw line.
Neil Watson scored a sensational 31 points for Riders, but it would not be enough. Kwan Waller led Leeds with 29.
Force have given their Play-Off hopes a major boost ahead of their final two games against Manchester Giants and Surrey Scorchers, while the title race now looks set to go to the wire too.
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 98 (23, 47, 76)(Defoe 18, Smith 17, Martin 17)
Glasgow Rocks 71 (15, 34, 59)(Hall 17, Achara 13, Grabau 12)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle capitalised on Leicester Riders’ slip with a 98-71 victory against Glasgow Rocks – on a landmark night for Charles Smith.
Smith became just the third player in history to reach 7,000 career points in the BBL Championship as Eagles beat Rocks for an incredible 16th time in a row.
The triumph took Eagles level on points with league leaders Riders, after they suffered a shock defeat at Leeds Force.
It looked like it could be a long night for Fab Flournoy’s men when the Scottish club came out firing and connected on a flurry of three-pointers early on.
But Joe Chapman replied with a triple of his own midway through the second quarter to spark a 14-1 close to the half and put the hosts in control.
The lead grew as Smith began to find his range and passed his milestone early in the second half.
Despite 15 turnovers, Eagles controlled the majority of the second half and ran out comfortable winners behind their 51% field-goal shooting.
Six Eagles scored in double figures but it was Darius Defoe that led the way with 18 points as Smith added 17 to go with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Will Hall had 17 points and 10 boards in a losing effort for Rocks, who must re-group ahead of aWednesday meeting with Plymouth Raiders.
London Lions 101 (29, 52, 75)(Williams 20, Watt 17, Lewis 16)
Worcester Wolves 89 (27, 52, 74)(Blackwell 23, Couisnard 15, Jackman 13)
London Lions improved their hopes of a top-six finish in the BBL Championship with an impressive 101-89 home win against Worcester Wolves on Friday.
The capital club connected on 17 of their 33 field-goal attempts (51%) to respond in style following back-to-back defeats against Leeds Force and Leicester Riders.
The victory lifts Nigel Lloyd’s men onto 28 points, level with fifth-placed Cheshire Phoenix, with a game in hand.
The teams were separated by just two points with six minutes to play before Olu Babalola drained a three-pointer to spark a rapid 12-0 run that Wolves could not recover from.
Kai Williams was the high man for Lions with 20 points, 15 of those coming from long range.
Wolves, without injured point guard Ashton Khan, slipped to a third defeat in four games and lose vital ground in the race for third spot, and could yet slip to fifth.
That is despite a 23-point performance from Perris Blackwell, who went 9-of-13 from the floor.
Wolves are back in action against Bristol Flyers on Saturday while Lions host Esh Group Eagles Newcastle on Sunday.
|1||Esh Group Eagles Newcastle||30||27||3||54|
|8||Plymouth University Raiders||30||12||18||24|