British_Basketball_League_(emblem)In a fitting climax to a hugely competitive season in the BBL Championship, both the title race and the Play-Off chase will be decided on the final weekend of the regular season.
The biggest result of the week saw Leeds Force improve their Play-Off hopes with an 81-78 defeat of Leicester Riders on Friday.
Riders had won 17 road games in a row and despite a 31-point haul from Neil Watson, the Force were able to snatch an important win thanks in part to 29 points from Kwan Waller.
“It’s a massive win, they are top of the league and you can’t get better than that,” said Force captain Armand Anebo, whose side are now level on points with eighth-placed Plymouth University Raiders.
“Going into the game, the plan was simple; slow the game down and make sure we handle the pressure, and we managed to do that.
“We kept plugging away, our shots started falling and the confidence built from there.”
The Riders ensured they would still finish the weekend in first place after they rebounded the following evening to beat Sheffield Sharks, 77-56.
After a close first half the Riders broke the game open after the break as pushed their advantage into double digits, led by a team-high 20 points from Bernardini.
“Sheffield was a really good win for our team after the big let-down of losing at Leeds,” said Bernardini.
“Credit to Leeds, they played really hard and we didn’t play well enough to win.”
He added, “Sheffield were without [Jerrold] Brooks but we knew it was still going to be a tough one.
“We were happy to end a brutal stretch of 8 games in 16 [days] with a win.”
Riders will hope to claim the title on Friday with a victory against Esh Group Eagles Newcastle, who kept up their own hopes of finishing first with a pair of wins.
Friday saw the Eagles continue their dominance over Glasgow Rocks with a 98-71 success, Darius Defoe leading the way with 18 points, but on Sunday they had to pull all out the stops to win at London Lions.
The Eagles eventually prevailed 93-84, but only after they fought their way back from an 11-point deficit.
Trailing 51-44 at the half, whatever Fab Flournoy said to his players during the break worked for Newcastle as they chipped away at the deficit, before going on to seal the win in the fourth quarter after outscoring the home side, 20-9.
Charles Smith and Scott Martin both had 21 points to lead the Eagles, while Joe Ikhninmwin was London’s high man with 14.
Despite the defeat, London Lions have now qualified for the Play-Offs and took away at least one win from the weekend following their 101-89 victory over Worcester Wolves on Friday, Kai Williams torching his old team for 20 points.
The Wolves also managed a victory from the weekend as they ended Bristol Flyers’
Play-Off hopes with an 82-77 success on Saturday, despite a game-high 22 points from Greg Streete.
That wasn’t his only big performance of the weekend as Streete then poured in 30 points as the Flyers dented Plymouth University Raiders’ play-off drive with a
78-70 comeback victory.
Finally, Sheffield Sharks remain in pole position to claim third spot after Sunday’s 82-69 win at Manchester Giants.