Plymouth City Patriots 91-68 Surrey Scorchers (22-22, 23-13, 22-10, 24-23)
Patriots – Simons 24, Brandon 16, Bell 16; Scorchers – Wang 16, Carey 15, Busumbru 9
London Lions 91-83 Manchester Giants (22-19, 24-23, 24-24, 21-17)
Lions – Zubcic 22, Koufos 16, Soko 15; Giants – Green 22, Fletcher 15, Williams 11
Sheffield Sharks 87-62 Newcastle Eagles (24-21, 18-9, 20-17, 25-15)
Sharks – Delpeche 14, Ogunyemi 14, Banks 14; Eagles – Varner 13, Hamlet 10, Cohn 9
Caledonia Gladiators 89-81 Leicester Riders (18-18, 23-24, 16-17, 32-22)
Gladiators – Sloan 36, Adams 17, Hencer 10; Riders – Whelan 22, Loving 20, Jackson 10
Cheshire Phoenix 74-81 Bristol Flyers (19-16, 15-17, 20-18, 15-18, 5-12)
Phoenix – Austin 22, Evans 15, Neighbour 14; Flyers Bell 27, King 16, Miller 13
When two of the lower seeded teams in the league face off, each game matters. A win could be the difference between reaching playoffs, or not; it could be an easier ride in next year’s BBL Cup, or not. The pressure to win rises, which is perhaps why the winless Surrey Scorchers played just seven players in the first half in the game against Plymouth City Patriots.
The strategy worked early, and there was little between the two sides after 10 minutes, but a deeper bench and the supportive crowd at the Plymouth Pavillions gave the home team extra juice before the end of the half.
Isa Brandon was everywhere for Plymouth. While he didn’t necessarily dominate the scoring column, his rebounding, playmaking and defensive effort gave the Patriots the edge down the stretch of the second quarter, and they entered the locker room with a 10-point lead.
He worked a beautiful pick-and-roll with Rashad Hassan in the third. Brandon came up from the left corner to received the ball on a dribble hand-off from Hassan, who rolled to the basket and received the floating pass over the top for an acrobatic layup.
It was Plymouth’s Troy Simons who kept the pressure on the Scorchers. He hit three after three in the third to blow up the lead.
Hassan made it a 20-point gap with less than a minute left in the frame as he sneaked backdoor and Elvisi Dusha lasered a pass to the big man for a quick two.
The Scorchers made a slight push at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Patriots kept their foot on the neck of their opponents with good passing and great effort from Simons even in the dying minutes when his team was up big.
Surrey put on a full court pressure to make the final scoreline respectable, but Dusha kept his cool to get the ball over the timeline, then set up a great screen sequence that saw him circle the baseline and come off his feet. Before he landed, a sneaky bounce pass to Simons released the pressure as Dusha kept moving into the corner. Simons got it straight back to him for an open three, putting the nail in the coffin.
Each team kept playing until the final buzzer, which saw a ridiculous three just crossed the half way line from the Scorchers’ Padiet Wang. It got a pop of interest from the audience, but Dusha did exactly the same, which lifted the roof of the Pavillions to make the crowd go home happy.
The London Lions were glad to see big man Kosta Koufos back after a few games injured, and he made his presence felt in the opening four minutes, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds.
Ovie Soko chipped in with another six in the opening five minutes, including an acrobatic layup under pressure. But he kept pressuring the defense by driving hard and was fouled twice to hit all four free throws early.
Devon Van Oostrum’s name doesn’t have the star power of the former NBA players on the Lions, but the Dutch-Brit showed his importance to the team with 2.40 left in the first quarter. While Rahmon Fletcher, possibly the best point guard in the league, tried to duke around him, Van Oostrum guessed his direction correctly and took a hard shoulder from the Manchester Giant square in the chest and went flying backwards. It was an offensive foul on Fletcher, and his second person, so he went to the bench early.
The London guard did the same to Dirk Williams, arguably one of the best small forwards in the BBL, a minute later to get another turnover.
Despite the early foul trouble, the Giants weren’t backing down. In his first return to the Copper Box since coaching the Lions last season, Manchester head coach Vince Macaulay showed why he is a top motivator. Tajh Green was active and kept scoring, not being dissuaded by a crowd that let him know when he managed an airball.
There were small mistakes from London that allowed their opponents to stay in the game. Their defensive intensity was high, and they forced a turnover with six minutes left in the second quarter to create a four on two advantage, but too many options caused brain freeze and they missed out on an easy finish.
There were mistakes on both sides. William Lee was sold on a pump fake from Tomislav Zubčić with four minutes left in the second. The Giants forward leapt high in the air to block the shot, but his knees caught Zubčić for a scary fall and an unsportsmanlike foul. The Croatian made two free throws and the Lions got the ball back, which led to a three from Zubčić for a five point swing.
In the third, Soko continued to show the leadership that’s been so important to the Lions when they were without Koufos and Sam Dekker. Soko received the ball on a pick and roll from Van Oostrum, who immediately turned and hit a teardrop from the middle of the court. On the following possession, the Brit was fouled and hit two more free throws.
The Giants, however, continued to stick around and kept driving into the physical defence. Fouls made it a stop and start game halfway through the third quarter.
A technical foul saw Fletcher hit an empty floor free throw, but when the Giants turned it over, Zubčić flew down the court for a tomahawk dunk. Manchester didn’t stick around while he was celebrating, and Williams got an open three, but Vojtěch Hruban replied with a three of his own. Williams got another one, then Zubčić then got loose for a three – all in the space of 30 seconds.
Another technical free throw was give early in the fourth quarter, which Fletcher nailed, and then he hit a huge three from near the LDN logo at halfcourt as the Giants took the lead. When Green got a great stop on the Lions’ Josh Sharma on the other end, the London big man fouled him with frustration, and the Giants got another three from Fletcher, this time in the corner to extend the lead.
Manchester were stopped, and a tough drive by London’s Soko saw them take a lead. The Giants pulled even on a layup from Lee, but he landed awkwardly and couldn’t make it back down court as Soko scored again.
Lee shuffled off injured, and the Giants looked small as the Lions’ defensive pride returned. Their zone caused a turnover and Aaron Best avoided contact by flying beneath the basket for a reverse layup.
Manchester’s Williams crossed up Luke Nelson, who danced until he fell, and then tripped up Williams to pick his a fifth foul and stepped away from the court. The Lions were slightly ahead, so while Van Oostrum might not have bee a big scoring threat, he could certainly defend a lead, which he helped do until the final buzzer.
It was another close call for the Lions, who remain undefeated, but Zubčić explained how the team still feels good to come away with a tough win. He told Azania Stewart on the broadcast: “We’re still building something new here. We’re looking forward to next week as we have big games ahead of us. If we keep building we’re going to be great.”
The last time the Newcastle Eagles visited Ponds Forge to play the B Braun Sheffield Sharks, the visitors left a tense match-up with a bloody lip as Sharks big man Bennett Koch caused them all sorts of issues inside the paint.
It looked like déjà vu on the first play of the game, as he hit a jumper the moment he touched the ball, but he was kept at bay for the rest of the quarter while Javion Ogunyemi picked up much of the scoring. Saeed Nelson wasn’t as impactful in the previous contest but he got going early six points and four assists in the opening 10 minutes.
While the Sharks started the second quarter with a big line-up, that didn’t intimidate Eagles captain Darius Defoe, who caught the ball at the nail, turned and hit a mid-range jumper in Marcus Delpeche’s face.
Koch was brought back in as the Sharks aimed to keep the scoreboard ticking, but the Eagles were quick to double the pressure every time he touched the ball. Kipper Nichols was the man who grew the lead to 10 after hitting a long two with seven minutes to go in the half.
Despite the good offence, the Sharks defence was what continued to expand the lead. They smothered the Eagles into a tough position as Ben Mockford picked up his dribble with 30 seconds to go in the half, and Lesley Varner got a three-point shot off that went nowhere. David Cohn got to the low post and shimmied his way around the defender foto score a much-needed two for the Eagles at the buzzer.
The third quarter started out incredibly slow. That changed once the ball got into Nelson’s hands and he got into the paint. Delpeche dove to the basket as Nelson attracted all the attention, and the big man caught the ball for a finish and a foul.
Frustration of a slow few minutes boiled over when Sheffield’s Jordan Ratinho fouled Javion Hamlet 90ft from his own basket, and the Eagles man hit both.
While Ratinho might have been annoyed by the low scoring quarter, the real frustration will have been coming from the team in white going into the fourth. The Sharks’ lead blew up to nearly 30 as everything went wrong for the Eagles.
Duke Shelton kept running for Newcastle and got a physical layup in transition, but his team was still down 24. He shouted at the referees and received a technical rather than the free throw he wanted.
It was all even between the Leicester Riders and the Caledonia Gladiators in the opening minutes, as the action went back and forth at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
Leicester pressed the ‘add Mo Walker’ button after a few minutes to break the deadlock and looked for him straight away. He received the ball in the mid post, and while he was knocked out of position slightly, the turnaround fadeaway from mid-range was good.
When the Gladiators took a four point lead, they went back to the big man, who bullied his way to the middle of the paint and hooked a shot over the top of his defender.
As Walker started drawing Caledonia’s attention, it opened up the floor for the Riders’ shooters. Zach Jackson was one beneficiary. After struggling with back spasms during the week, there was a worrying moment when he received a first hit, but the American got warm during the second quarter and hit back with a great three to create a bit of daylight on the scoreboard.
David Sloan was the man for the Gladiators, however. His 10 points in the first half kept the home team connected, and Darian Adams got back a one-point lead when he leaked out after a Riders turnover gave him an open layup in transition.
Marc Loving powered the Riders in the third, which included a post-up quick spin to arrive beneath the basket for an easy two. For the opposition, Patrick Tape had a dunk of his own to close the quarter after a great pass by Jack Hencer.
As the teams continued to go back and forth into the fourth, it was Sloan who regained a small lead to score his 26th point at the free throw line. The Gladiators got a great stop on defence and found Sloan again in transition, who made the heavily contested layup while getting hit, and sunk another free throw for 29.
While Patrick Whelan broke the mini-run by hitting a big three for the Riders from the corner, Sloan pushed his team back ahead with a three of his own from the top of the arc. Tape helped by hitting a turnaround jump shot with 50 seconds to go to push the gap to six.
Leicester didn’t give up, as Kimbal McKenzie drove baseline and passed back to a cutting Nelson Henry for a layup, but the visitors had to foul, and Sloan kept going to the line to put his opponents away.
The Bristol Flyers have been one of the best rebounding teams in the league this season. It’s how they built a 4-1 record going to the play Cheshire Phoenix, after dropping one at Vertu Motors Arena just two days earlier, so they hoped to get their biggest rebound of the season so far at Cheshire Oaks Arena.
The loud crowd wasn’t going to make it easy for the Flyers, and with these two teams being the lowest scoring in the league, it was never going to be high scoring. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when the first frame ended 19-16 to Cheshire. It was Will Neighbour who kept them ahead with a big couple of threes out of a timeout.
Four quick points by Bristol thanks to tough defence and hustle closed the gap to 34-33, as Jamell Anderson wedgied a fadeaway before the halftime buzzer.
Phoenix coach Ben Thomas spoke to Cheshire’s broadcast team at the half and said: “Defensively we’re playing well – we’re doing a lot of things right but they’re killing us on the glass. I think they had seven offensive rebounds in that half, luckily for us they’re not producing anything from it, but if we don’t do something about that now it can hurt us.”
Keen to show he’s not just an outside shooter, Neighbour got into the post during the third quarter. Halfway through the frame, the Flyers started doubling the big man, and Larry Austin made the most of the extra space and made the cut. He was found by Neighbour for an easy layup.
Thomas Bell was the man keeping Bristol flying. His efficient 18 points through three quarters made up for his struggling teammate, Brandon Mahan.
Desperate to get some easy points, Bristol went to Malcolm Delpeche out of the half, but he failed to convert with the hook shot, and it was Vincent King who managed to break the locked scoreboard to start the fourth.
Another scoreless minute passed until Phoenix guard Marcus Evans shimmied into the lane for a tough layup.
And his team followed this with good defensive pressure, as Neighbour got a hand on an errand pass, which saw Larry Austin burst out of the blocks for a contested layup in transition.
Evans continued to get into the lane, and Michael Ochereobia put back an offensive rebound to push the lead to seven.
But Bristol fought their way back in with good defence and offensive rebounding, which led to some sloppy fouls by Cheshire, as they gave their opponents some easy points at the line.
Each team traded huge threes, including one for Bristol’s Mahan, which gave him the confidence he needed. He was then fouled while hitting another.
A series of gaffes from both teams saw a 24-second shot clock violation and a bad offensive possession result in few points scored down the stretch, and they were tied 69 apiece. It was free basketball for the crowd.
Bristol rung for the Bell in overtime, as the flashy guard was given space and caught fire.
He got a layup to go on the first possession, and while the Flyers went empty on multiple possessions, Andreas Kapoulas screamed at his team to get it back to the scorer.
Bell got to the bucket and scored a free throw after being fouled in the act of shooting. He then got loose for a turnaround left-hand floater and a five-point lead.
Each team traded baskets but the deficit didn’t change, as Bristol rebounded from a tough loss with a big win on the road to retain their second place on the BBL Championship table.
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