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The opening BBL Championship fixtures of 2016 saw wins for Leicester Riders and Worcester Wolves – two of the top three – on Saturday night.
Riders – already possessing the league’s best defensive record – opened the year with the best defensive performance of the season so far, when they beat Leeds Force 91-43. Drew Sullivan and Tyler Bernardini each had 13 points, on a night when all twelve of Leicester’s players got onto the scoresheet.
Wolves, currently in third place, overpowered Surrey Scorchers for the second time in two weeks to beat them 91-66 in front of a sell-out crowd at Surrey Sports Park, in Coach Paul James’s 250th game in charge. Pavol Losonsky produced the performance of the night, with 25 points and 14 rebounds, on 78% shooting.
BBL Championship
Leicester Riders 91 (25,45,72) (Bernardini 13, Sullivan 13, Wright 12)
Leeds Force 43 (12,25,33) (Waller 14, Sayers 8, Bethune/Wells 6)
Leicester Riders – the sternest defensive team in the BBL – made it five league wins on the bounce in beating Leeds Force 91-43 on Saturday night, in their best defensive performance and largest winning margin of the BBL Championship campaign so far. It’s Leicester’s sixth straight win over Leeds, and builds on a record-breaking 2015 in which they won 88.6% of their league games.
And the opener of 2016 was never in doubt, after Riders raced out with the first 12 points of the game when Tyler Bernardini hit a three-pointer and TrayVon Wright added six points. The Force, shooting just 25% on the night, failed to register in the opening three minutes, and in the second quarter Riders pushed the lead out to 43-23 when Bernardini hit five in a run of eight unanswered points.
Most of the damage was done in a 27-8 third quarter in which Riders went on an 18-0 surge and held their visitors scoreless for a further seven minutes, to lead 70-31. Riders had six different scorers in that run, including five points for Neil Watson, and that was indicative of their second half performance as, by the end of the game, all twelve of their players had made it onto the scoresheet. Leicester were led by Bernardini and Drew Sullivan, both on 13 points.
But it was their defence that ensured that Leeds remain winless against Leicester since joining the BBL. 43 points is the lowest tally in any game so far this season, and it’s worth noting that Riders, on average, concede at least ten fewer points than the next best defensive team in the league.
BBL Championship
Surrey Scorchers 66 (18,30,50) (Ross-Miller 22, Behrens 15, Wilkins 8)
Worcester Wolves 91 (19,44,68) (Losonsky 25, Cameron 18, Couisnard 16)
Worcester Wolves made it five wins in the last six outings as they beat Surrey Scorchers 91-66 in Coach Paul James’s 250th game in charge to open 2016. It is the second time that they have beaten Scorchers in the last two weeks, and gives them eight straight wins against this opposition dating back to April 2013.
Wolves got off to a good start when Josh Cameron hit six points in a row for a 16-9 first quarter lead, before KC Ross-Miller and Henry Wilkins brought the Scorchers back.
But the Wolves didn’t allow their hosts a score in the first four minutes of the second stanza, rattling off seven unanswered points including back-to-back buckets for Ashton Khan. And that run became 16-2 over a seven minute spell, for a score of 35-20, with Scorchers shooting just 2/8 having committed nine turnovers in the second quarter.
Scorchers looked as though they might find a way back into the game once they were through that barren period, only for Jay Couisnard to hit a three-pointer on the half time buzzer to dampen the mini-revival.
The second half was comfortable for the visitors as their lead remained in double-figures throughout, despite Surrey opening with a 7-2 run as Nicholas Schlitzer scored five. But the league’s third leakiest defence could not contain the Wolves, as they shot 61% from inside the arc on the night led by Pavol Losonsky’s 25 points and 14 rebounds on 78% shooting.

P   PL W L Pts
1 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 17 17 0 34
2 Leicester Riders 13 12 1 24
3 Worcester Wolves 17 12 5 24
4 Glasgow Rocks 16 8 8 16
5 Sheffield Sharks 12 6 6 12
6 London Lions 14 6 8 12
7 Cheshire Phoenix 16 6 10 12
8 Leeds Force 17 6 11 12
9 Surrey Scorchers 14 5 9 10
10 Bristol Flyers 15 5 10 10
10 Plymouth University Raiders 15 5 10 10
12 Manchester Giants 18 4 14 8