The BBL Championship Play-off race is heating up at both ends of the top eight after a bumper Sunday that saw ten of the league’s eleven teams in action, including road defeats for two of the top three.
First up, Worcester Wolves snapped a three game losing streak and handed league-leading Leicester Riders a first defeat in twelve with a buzzer-beating 84-82 overtime win that avenged Friday’s defeat live on Sky Sports, when Riders pipped them by one courtesy of a late three-pointer.
Wolves looked in control of the game, up by double-digits in the fourth quarter, but they didn’t score a field goal for over six minutes as the visitors stormed back to force overtime with Conner Washington scoring nine late points.
The game was almost equally as tight in the extra period, but Lamarr Kimble proved to be the difference as he scored eight of Wolves’ ten points in those five minutes, and it came to him to separate the teams in exciting fashion at the death with a baseline floater to win it at the final buzzer.
Results elsewhere mean that Wolves jump up into a Play-off place, Brandon Anderson leading their scoring with 21 points.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed B. Braun Sheffield Sharks closed the gap on the top three by beating London Lions, just ahead of them in the table, 83-72 for a second win in three nights at Ponds Forge. It means Sharks move level with Lions on 10 wins, and is a third defeat in five for the Londoners.
The teams were tied at 55 in the third period after two-time MVP Justin Robinson scored 10 straight points to drag Lions back into the game. But it wouldn’t last long as Sheffield hit a 13-2 tear across the fourth quarter break, Nicholas Lewis nailing a three-pointer to end the third before Antwon Lillard opened the fourth in the same manner.
That made the lead double-digits at 68-57 and there was no way back for the visitors, as Sharks were led by 23 points from Jeremy Hemsley.
Also closing the gap on the top three, and joining those teams on ten wins, are Plymouth Raiders, after a comprehensive 92-67 win on their longest road trip to Glasgow Rocks.
British guard Denzel Ubiaro led the way with 18 points as Raiders controlled the game from the early exchanges, to make it seven wins in the last eight league games.
They spread the scoring early on, and a 13-1 burst was sparked by three triples as Plymouth led 27-11 behind eight early points from Chris Porter-Bunton and a pair of triples from Will Neighbour. Raiders controlled the game from there and steadily built on their lead throughout.
At the other end of the Play-off race, Bristol Flyers levelled the head-to-head series with Manchester Giants, and leap-frogged their Play-off rivals in the process, with a hard-fought 93-89 victory at the National Basketball Performance Centre, behind 23 points and seven assists from Josh Wilcher to lead six players in double-figures.
After letting an earlier lead slip, Flyers did the damage midway through the fourth period when Eric Lockett scored six in a 10-3 push that made the score 75-66 heading into the final five minutes. Sam Cassell Jr. hit a pair of three-pointers to make it a one possession game in the final minute, but Wilcher and GB guard Teddy Okereafor saw the game out from the free-throw line.
Finally, the race for that last Play-off place was tightened further as tenth-placed Surrey Scorchers ended a run of three straight league defeats by beating Cheshire Phoenix 76-74 on the road, moving to 4-10 as Ryan Richards scored 21 points.
Surrey took over immediately after the break, opening the third quarter 13-2 as Richards scored four and Martelle McLemore hit a triple; and after eight more consecutive points, Hicks scoring four of those, it was 58-45 as Scorchers won the third period 23-9.
That gave them a cushion they had to defend late on as Cheshire got it back to a one point game inside the final minute, only for 18 year-old GB star Cameron Hildreth to hit a crucial free-throw and then make a huge block on a three-pointer that would have won it for the hosts.
On Friday, Sheffield Sharks and Leicester Riders both won by 1 point in tight games whilst Bristol Flyers, Newcastle Eagles and Plymouth Raiders all won in a bumper night of BBL action.
Sheffield Sharks and Manchester Giants faced up in one of the days two early tip-offs. It was tight throughout with neither side able to create any breathing space. Sharks did manage to open up an 8-point gap by the end of the third quarter, but a spirited Giants performance ensured that Sheffield wouldn’t win without a fight. The game finished 81-80 in the Sharks favour.
Jeremy Hemsley put up 19 points and 7 rebounds for the hosts while the visitor’s star performer was Justin Satchell who provided a game-high 20 points and 8 rebounds.
In the days second early tip off Newcastle Eagles welcomed Cheshire Phoenix to the Eagles Community Arena. Eagles got off to the brighter start and raced into a 7-point lead after the first . However, two tight quarters would see the game perfectly poised for the last as the teams went into it level at 53 points apiece. It would be Eagles who kicked on and played out the game well to win 80-73.
Evan Maxwell led the scoring charts for Eagles with 25 points and 5 rebounds. Cortez Edwards also had a good game, finishing with 17 points. For Phoenix, Kahlon Ross provided 19 points but it would not be enough for his side as they suffered their eighth defeat of the season.
Leicester Riders matchup against Worcester Wolves was broadcast live on Sky Sports and it certainly lived up to the billing. Corey Johnson produced a sensational game-winning three-pointer with 2.6 seconds on the clock to tighten Riders grip at the top of the BBL Championship.
Riders would have thought they had the game wrapped up as they led 5 going into the last quarter but a sensational last quarter saw Wolves turn the game around and were on the cusp of winning before Johnsons game winner. Riders came out on top 82-81.
Plymouth Raiders beat Glasgow Rocks 63-60 in another tight affair. It was close throughout as both sides battled to get ahead but it was Raiders who would use their three-point advantage going into the last quarter to hang on and grind out an important win.
Will Neighbour was Raiders top scorer on the night with 14 points and 7 rebounds whilst Ronald Delph produced a double double performance for Glasgow, however his side would remain bottom of the Championship after a close game.
In the nights fifth and final game Bristol Flyers comfortably overcame Surrey Scorchers 89-67. Flyers led from the get-go and extended their lead as the game went on to secure their fifth win of the season.
Eric Lockett led the scoring with 18 points and 8 rebounds, just missing out on a double double. For the visitors, Tayo Ogedengbe put up 14 points whilst BBL new boy Cameron Hildreth managed a double double of his own with 10 points and 10 rebounds.