BBL: Raiders book Trophy final spot as Championship race begins to heat up

Plymouth Raiders booked their place in the BBL Trophy final on Sunday in an action-packed afternoon of BBL action, that saw massive results at both ends of the table.

The Raiders kicked off the day’s basketball with a convincing win over Surrey Scorchers, following up on their slender first leg victory. The Leicester Riders staked their claim for the Championship title with a huge win over title rivals London Lions, and there wins elsewhere for Sheffield Sharks, Cheshire Phoenix and Glasgow Rocks.

Sunday’s action tipped off in Surrey, where the Scorchers were looking to overturn the seven-point deficit against an in-form Raiders side. The Raiders started the game the stronger of the two sides and never looked back, and held a 16 point lead by halftime.

Ricky Mcgill followed up from his impressive performance in the first leg with a game high 32 points, taking his tally for the two legs to an astonishing 63 points. Tony Hicks enjoyed a good outing for the Scorchers as he posted a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists, however it was to be the Raiders’ day as they booked their place in the final against the London Lions.

The Lions will be hoping for greater fortune in the final than they were met with today, as they were narrowly beaten by the Leicester Riders whose inspired fourth quarter performance gave them a firm hold at the top of the Championship.

The game was billed as a clash of two heavyweights of the BBL and it did not disappoint, with the result going right to the wire after some incredible performances on both sides.

Darien Nelson-Henry’s late effort resulted in an and-one opportunity that secured the points for Leicester after showing some incredible hustle to putback his own miss, and the Riders’ huge showing in the fourth quarter was enough to pip their tital rivals. Geno Crandall was two rebounds shy of a triple double whereas Justin Robinson led all scorers with 21 points for the Lions.

Kahron Ross was the hero for Cheshire Phoenix when they stunned the Leicester Riders, and he was at it again as his dagger with only a second remaining saw the Phoenix pick up a famous derby win, and clinch the season series against the Manchester Giants.

The game was tied at 75 apiece before Ross stepped up and his step back jumper was right on the money just before the buzzer went. The score capped a 14 point showing for Ross as Mike McCall erupted for 25 points in a crucial win for the Phoenix.

Aaron Geramipoor led the Giants with 21 points as they missed the chance to leapfrog the Bristol Flyers in eighth place.

The Flyers nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback in their game against the Sheffield Sharks, as they narrowly lost out to the Sharks who at one point held an 18 point lead in the game.

The Sharks exploded into life in the third quarter after a tightly fought first half, and held the Flyers to only 13 points whilst scoring 28 of their own. The roles were reversed in the final period as Bristol, led by Marcus Delpeche’s 27 points, nearly stunned the Sharks with an incredible comeback and found themselves a score away from clinching the game, before Kipper Nichols’ two late free throws clinched the tie.

The day’s final game saw the Rocks pick up a well-earned third victory of the season, as they stunned the Worcester Wolves who lost ground on the Sharks as the race for the Playoffs heats up.

The Rocks flew out of the gates and built an early 7 point lead in the first quarter, and assured performances in the second and third periods saw them well on their way to a much-needed victory.

The Wolves fought back and nearly managed to get within a score of the Rocks, however Christian Keeling’s extraordinary chase back block after losing possession gave the Rocks some breathing room.

Ronald Delph enjoyed a monster outing for the Rocks, as he went off for 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Rocks’ young core held on for the two points. The result capped off an electric day of BBL action that has ramifications across the League, and sets up a mouth-watering BBL Trophy Final.

Friday evening was started off by the Lions and the Wolves picking up two points in their respective games. Kevin Ware’s 24 points off the bench in just 21 minutes of action inspired his team to beating the Manchester Giants and in some style, with Dirk Williams also dropping 23 points. Fahro Alihodzic put in a very solid performance on defence, grabbing a team-high of nine rebounds while DeAndre Liggins seven assists also proved important.

David Ulph, Zack Powell and Alex Ouandie scored a combined 42 points off the bench – over half of their team’s overall total, but Jordan Whelan and Aaron Geramipoor were impressive from the start, scoring 15 points each while Geramipoor tied Ulph for a team-high of eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Jack Hudson, who also started off the bench, tied Ouandie for a team-high of four assists.

At the same time 170 miles up the M1, the Wolves picked up a solid win on the road away to the Sheffield Sharks thanks to a fantastic team performance with four players reaching double-digits for scoring and a further three scoring five or more. Lamarr Kimble led the scoring for his team with 15, but Jordan Williams’ 11 points and nine rebounds plus five assists was arguably the most impressive performance from a Wolves perspective.

Sharks’ 23-year-old wing Jordan Ratinho led the game in scoring with 20 points, followed by center Bennett Koch who dropped 15 alongside seven rebounds, a total only beaten on his team by Antwon Lillard who managed eight rebounds as well as 10 points and five assists. It was a solid comeback attempt from the Sharks, who were ten points down at half-time, but they will rue losing the second quarter by so much when the rest of the game was a lot tighter.

Shortly after the final buzzer in Sheffield and London, the Riders tipped off against the Newcastle Eagles and while the first five minutes were tight, after that period the Championship leaders didn’t really look like losing. Connor Washington scored 21 points off the bench for Leicester, but double-doubles from Geno Crandall and Darien Nelson-Henry put the game out of reach for the home side.

The return of Justin Gordon was a huge boost for the Eagles, and his 13 points was the second highest total for his team behind Cortez Edwards who scored 18 – as well as grabbing 12 rebounds. There was also a double-double for Rahmon Fletcher, who matched Crandall’s game high of ten assists while also scoring 11 points.

The final BBL Championship game of the night was contested by the Phoenix and Bristol Flyers, and a brilliant 25 points from Kahron Ross was very influential in the end result swinging in Cheshire’s favour. Mike McCall Jr’s total of 19 points was an incredible feat, particularly as he didn’t miss a shot all night, while Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Jalen Hayes contributions on the defensive end with eight rebounds each were also a huge boost for the Nix.

Eric Lockett put up 20 points and eight rebounds, while Teddy Okereafor and Marcus Delpeche both scored 17 points – with Delpeche nailing the only double-double of the game with ten rebounds too. Josh Wilcher was in a very creative mood, setting his teammates up for buckets nine times, but ultimately it was not enough unfortunately for the Flyers.