Kestrels make history, Riders flying high - BBL latest

Team Solent Kestrels made history Sunday when they became the very first National Basketball League team to qualify for the BBL Trophy Final.

The Kestrels came into Sunday’s 2nd Leg with Bristol Flyers confident, holding a 36-point advantage following their 103-67 first leg victory last Wednesday.

It was a major uphill task for Bristol but the home-side weren’t prepared to give in easily. Backed by 27 points and seven rebounds from Gentrey Thomas, and an additional 20 points from Levi Bradley and 10 rebounds from Raphell Thomas-Edwards, the Flyers were at times able to take a double-digit lead, cutting into that dreaded 36-point advantage.

However, Solent never allowed the Flyers to gain too much momentum, cutting them off with a flurry of field goals to bring that lead back down to single digits, proving the deficit to be too much for the home-side to handle, and whilst Flyers took a 92-73 game win, it was the Solent Kestrels who were victorious on aggregate, 176-159.

Solent will now head to the BBL Trophy Final, the first ever NBL team to do so in the BBL Trophy’s history, on March 15 at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow, to meet either Newcastle Eagles or Cheshire Phoenix.

In the BBL Championship, the Leicester Riders extended their recent winning streak to 5-0, after picking up an away win over Plymouth Raiders, 74-90.

The Riders’ offense was on fire, shooting 70% from inside the arc and 76% from the free throw line. Having taken just a three point lead into half-time, the Riders exploded out of the locker room, going 36-18 in the third quarter alone.

Josh Ward-Hibbert led his team with 18 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Namon Wright and Darien Nelson-Henry combined for 32 points, and Kyron Cartwright picked up a double-double of 10 points and 11 assists, lifting Riders into third place in the Championship standings.

Meanwhile, Dante Thorpe led his team to victory also as Radisson Red Glasgow Rocks defeated Cheshire Phoenix, 71-87, putting them joint-top of the BBL Championship with London Lions.

Despite 17 points from GB International Ben Mockford and a double-double from Mike Ochereobia, Phoenix struggled to secure a win over the mighty Rocks, as top scorers Dante Thorpe, Ali Fraser and Gregg Pryor dropped 44 points combined, and were backed by a strong defence.

Manchester Giants’ hopes of picking up their first BBL Championship win were shattered again, as B. Braun Sheffield Sharks took an 87-106 away win, thanks to Connor Cashaw racking up 21 points and 8 rebounds and a double-double from Mackey McKnight, 12 points and 10 assists.

In Saturday night’s only BBL Championship game, Radisson Red Glasgow Rocks used a big first half to beat Surrey Scorchers 95-79 on the road.

Glasgow looked like a team on form as they raced out of the blocks to lead 34-21 after scoring the last nine points of the first quarter. Just 16 minutes in the visitors led 51-31 as they were shooting 76% from the field and had made six of their first seven three-point attempts.

That gave them enough of a cushion to see out a competitive second half, as the hosts got as close as 10, with Rocks led by 25 points and seven rebounds from Terrell Vinson.

Having suffered a difficult couple weeks since their Cup Final defeat, Bristol Flyers were determined to bounce back on Friday night and they gave the current BBL Champions a run for their money, with London Lions just managing to hold off the home side to emerge 66-75 victors.

The contest was deeply competitive, as both teams went into half-time tied 42-a-piece until Lions were just able to edge the Flyers in the final minutes of the third quarter to give themselves an eight point lead going into the final period. Flyers battled back and with just over four minutes to go to the buzzer, Flyers found themselves one-point behind.

But the Flyers offense began to fatigue, and before they knew it, Lions had countered with an 8-0 run to seal the game for the champions.

Meanwhile, Leicester Riders managed to pick up their biggest win ever against Newcastle Eagles, 101-63, on Friday night also.

Without their star shooter, and recent back-to-back Molten BBL Player of the Month winner, CJ Gettys, the Eagles struggled; shooting 30% from inside the arc, and 20% out of it and Riders made sure to capitalise.

Namon Wright led the Riders with 29 points whilst Josh Ward-Hibbert picked up a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kyron Cartwright and Jordan Spencer also shared the Valentine’s Day love, by dishing out a combined 22 assists.

And Worcester Wolves managed to pick up a big home win for themselves against Plymouth Raiders, 116-91.

Top scorer Kofi Josephs dropped 31 points for his side, whilst Mark Hughes added 29 himself, and Cortez Edwards came just two stats off a triple-double performance, finishing with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.