BBL: Big Championship wins in top six

A busy Sunday of BBL Championship and BBL Trophy fixtures saw five of the top six in league action, while two more teams progressed to the Trophy quarter-finals.

Near the top of the Championship, Plymouth Raiders closed the gap on the top three with a fourth straight league win, snapping the eight game win streak of the team immediately above them, London Lions, with an 81-75 victory at the Copper Box Arena.

Plymouth hit eight straight points just before the half to make it 43-35 on an Ashley Hamilton score, as he finished with a game high 20 points; but they had to sustain a comeback from the hosts and the game was tied with six minutes to play.

Raiders turned up the dial on defence to get the job done, holding Lions scoreless for the final 3:45, while remaining aggressive offensively to score the final five points of the game all at the free-throw line.

Above both of those teams, Leicester Riders remain top as the first team to reach ten wins, beating Glasgow Rocks 97-78 on the road the Emirates Arena to make it six wins on the bounce.

Riders started on a 20-6 surge as William Lee hit nine points and Scotland international and former Rock Ali Fraser came from the bench to score five in a row to cap that run, and they never looked back. Fraser scored five more in a 7-0 start to the second stanza, and 12 points in a row early in the third included triples from Corey Johnson and Zach Jackson as the lead peaked at 72-37 when Johnson hit another pair of treys.

In the day’s final league game, B. Braun Sheffield Sharks put daylight between them and Manchester Giants in fifth place, winning the Roses Derby 90-76 on the road to complete a winning double-header weekend.

It all came behind a dominant first quarter that they won 28-13 as Jordan Ratinho scored 12 points in the opening ten minutes, including a pair of three-pointers as Sharks hit nine in the first half. After a 7-2 run to open the second half, the lead reached 68-45 on another Ratinho triple in a professional display from the visitors, as Jeremy Hemsley cruised to 26 points and Ratinho hit 20.

Meanwhile, in the BBL Trophy, Cheshire Phoenix progressed by beating NBL1 side Hemel Storm 77-63 behind 23 points from Jalen Hayes.

After a tight start, Cheshire scored 20 straight points in just over four minutes before halftime, with 10 of those for Hayes and the last six for Sehill Mouliom to lead 48-26.

The lower league side put up a big fight to cut the gap to 10 in the third, as Mike Williams scored five of his 22 points to cap a run; but Phoenix struck back immediately with three-pointers from Mike McCall Jr. and Kahron Ross, before debutant Matthew Bryan-Amaning came up with three early buckets to seal it in the fourth.

Finally, in an all-NBL1 clash, last season’s finalists Team Solent Kestrels ran out 101-73 winners over Derby Trailblazers, with Travis Charles posting a monster double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Charles sparked an 11-1 first quarter burst that established an early double-figure lead at 26-13, and they put the game to bed with a 17-3 surge towards the end of the third period as Orlan Jackman hit four of his 14 points and Andre Arissol scored five of his 11.

Kestrels will now face Surrey Scorchers in the quarter-finals, while Cheshire will meet Glasgow.

The Bristol Flyers snapped their four-game losing streak with a hard-fought win over the Surrey Scorchers on Saturday evening.

The Flyers, whose last victory came against the Scorchers in Surrey, edged a tight affair after flying out of the blocks in the first period. The Scorchers, who are now on a three-game losing streak of their own, fought back in the middle two periods however were just pipped to the finish line after two late free throws from Ben Mockford.

Bristol started the ballgame strongly, and racked up 30 first quarter points as they looked to put the disappointment of the last few weeks behind them.

The Scorchers came roaring back however and led by the half, with Tony Hicks leading the team and game in scoring with an impressive 24 points on 50% shooting from the field.

An explosive first half was followed by an equally tight second period as both teams fought to pick up some much-needed points to get their seasons back on track.

Justin Baker led the Flyers in scoring with 17 points, but it was Mockford who followed closely behind on 16 who sealed the victory for the Flyers. With the game tightly in the balance with 12 seconds on the clock, only one point separated the sides.

Up stepped Mockford who drained both his free throws to secure two huge points for a buoyed Flyers side, and a much needed boost for the journey back to Bristol.

And on Friday night, the Surrey Scorchers secured a late victory in their first round tie in the BBL Trophy thanks to a game winner through debutant Cam Hildreth.

Hildreth, who will be leaving for College Basketball in America to showcase his talents for Wake Forest after this season, put on a mesmerising display, with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, including some huge plays in the clutch.

Six Scorchers players made it into double figures for the game, and the side shot 54% from the field to clinch a spot in the next round.

It was a fantastic display from Thames Valley, who were seconds away from the next round, and they were led by the phenomenal performance of guard Taylor Johnson, who dropped 32 points with eight rebounds and nine assists.

Hakeem Sylla notched a double-double with 22 points, thirteen rebounds and two blocks, but it will be the BBL side that progress to the next round.

There was also some fantastic basketball played in the BBL Championship, with the Leicester Riders taking the win in an overtime classic against the Manchester Giants.

Geno Crandall led the game for the Riders with 26 points, including some big shots in the clutch, and also a huge 15 assists.

Captain Darien Nelson-Henry added 15 points and eight rebounds and Corey Johnson provided a very efficient 24 points, including shooting 58% from three point range.

Neither team were not able to run away with the game mainly due to the fantastic shooting displays that both teams put on.

For Manchester, Jordan Whelan added a big 30 points from the bench and Breon Brady contributing a huge double-double with 29 points and 14 rebounds.

Sam Cassell Jr also added a double-double with seventeen points and ten assists, but Leicester clinched the victory in overtime to claim top spot in the BBL Championship.

Elsewhere the Plymouth Raiders climb into the top four after they took a convincing win against South West rivals the Bristol Flyers.

Raiders captain Ashley Hamilton led the game in scoring with 19 points, but it was a night to forget for the visiting Bristol team, who shot just 37% from the field.

The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks completed a 16 point victory over strugglers Glasgow Rocks, as guard Antwon Lillard shone for the hosts, with a 21 point, eleven rebound double-double.

Kipper Nichols added 13 points and four steals, as the Sharks jumped to fifth in the standings, but Glasgow remain rock bottom.

Finally, the Newcastle Eagles defeated the Worcester Wolves at the Eagles Community Arena by nine points.

The Eagles were up by 19 at the half, but the Wolves dug in to close the gap, however it was not enough to come away with the two points from the North East.

Justin Gordon and Rahmon Fletcher both contributed double-doubles for the hosts, with Gordon adding 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Fletcher providing 14 assists as well as scoring 13 points.

Jordan Williams was a shining light out there for Worcester, as he put on a great display, with 18 points, twelve rebounds and four steals, but victory went to the Eagles, who are level on points with league leaders the Leicester Riders.