Bristol Flyers 87-70 Surrey Scorchers (24-10, 24-22, 23-17, 16-21)
Flyers – Watson-Gayle 21, Bell 19, Olison 15; Scorchers – McFolley 22, Steel 13, Carey/Johnson 10
London Lions 96-62 Plymouth City Patriots (21-16, 32-8, 18-25, 25-13)
Lions – Hruban 25, Nelson 19, Zubcic 15; Patriots – Bissainthe 18, Hassan 16, Dang-Akodo 10
Leicester Riders 85-76 B Braun Sheffield Sharks (16-14, 16-15, 25-26, 28-21)
Riders – Loving 25, Jackson 13, Mackenzie 11; Sharks – Delpeche/Glasgow Jr/Nelson/Pipkins 12
With places in the playoffs and seeding still to be determined for much of the table, the London Lions made sure the competition would continue thanks a big win over the Plymouth City Patriots.
The 34-point Lions victory, thanks to 25 from Vojtech Hruban, meant the Patriots will go into this weekend’s clash against the Newcastle Eagles with a playoff spot on the line.
Bristol Flyers did everything in their power to battle for second place, by beating the Surrey Scorchers 87-70 – with Jelani Watson-Gayle leading the way with 21 points.
But the Leicester Riders’ well fought victory over the B Braun Sheffield Sharks meant the Flyers would drop down to the three seed.
Marc Loving was magnificent for Leicester, dropping 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to secure a nine-point win in a game that was close until the final few seconds.
The reason the Bristol Flyers have flown around the top of the BBL Championship this year is great defence and methodical offence.
These were on full display throughout the first quarter against the visiting Surrey Scorchers, which meant they were able to get out to a 24-10 lead in the first quarter.
A big reason for the lead was the steady stream of offence from the dynamic guard duo of Thomas Bell III and Jelani Watson-Gayle. They managed 14 between them during the first 10 minutes, but in completely different ways.
It felt like Bell got to the free throw line every time he drove to the basket, whereas Watson-Gayle’s mid-range game was on point with pretty floaters and jumpers.
In the second quarter, the Scorchers managed to loosen up the defensive chains Bristol clamped on them in the first quarter.
Josh McFolley led the comeback. He was relentless attacking the basket and scored 13 of his side’s 22 points in the quarter.
This opened up some space for his teammates, including a dunk by Shakem Johnson that closed the gap to nine, and a Tayo Ogedengbe three.
A timeout by Bristol coach Andreas Kapoulas refocused the home team and found Watson-Gayle open for back-to-back three.
His teammate Mike Miller helped out with scoring to push the lead to 48-32 at the half.
It was a back-and-forth affair to open the third quarter, as McFolley and Kyle Carey scored and assisted on multiple buckets early to fight back for Surrey.
But Bristol’s Tevin Ollison wasn’t letting the Scorchers get back into the game that easily.
The guard found different ways to score, and he lobbed the leading pass for Malcolm Delpeche’s alley-oop that brought the Bristol crowd alive.
Surrey worked hard to close the gap in the fourth, but the 22-point deficit was too much to overcome, and Bristol won 87-70.
If the BBL Championship winning London Lions thought they were in for an easy ride when the Plymouth City Patriots entered Copper Box Arena, the first few minutes didn’t go to script.
London’s Vojtech Hruban was perfect in the early going, scoring inside and out of the three-point line. But Plymouth matched the home team basket for basket.
The final few minutes of the opening frame, however, saw Tarik Phillip return for the first time since returning from injury. His presence pushing the pace and passing ahead helped create separation at the end of 10 minutes, including a big three from Luke Nelson.
This continued growing into the second quarter. Aaron Best led the way for London after hitting a three, followed by a breakout layup and the extra free throw on the foul for six quick points.
London’s defence was excellent, and it took nearly seven minutes for Plymouth to score in the second quarter.
Once the gap had opened up, the Lions relaxed and started playing loose.
Nothing exemplified this more than when Jordan Taylor was doubled on the left-hand block facing away from the basket, but launched a two-handed, no-look pass over his head into the opposite corner to find Hruban open for a three.
This pushed the lead to 30 with three minutes to go in the first half.
The gap was big, but the Patriots came into the second half with a lot of fight.
Point guard Elvisi Dusha found a number of ways for Ralph Bissainthe and Jules Dang-Akodo to hit multiple threes.
The last one Dusha and Bissainthe connected on cut the gap to 16, before the guard took a much-needed breather.
The substitution meant Plymouth’s offence slowed, which is when London’s Nelson was able to hit two big threes and push the gap up to 22 going into the final 10 minutes.
London won the league with a record six games to go for a reason. They came out of the break between the third and fourth quarter with a fresh focus and upped the defensive intensity.
Holding the Patriots to 13 points in the quarter, the Lions grew the gap back to more than 30 and gave the home fans something to cheer about when Miye Oni dribbled between two defenders at half court, when behind his back and drove into the lane before kicking out to Mo Soluade for a three.
A dunk for Tomislav Zubcic gave London a 96-62 win over the Plymouth, who will have a win-and-your-in playoff face-off against the Newcastle Eagles on Sunday.
Playoff seeding was still up for grabs at Morningside Arena for the B Braun Sheffield Sharks when they travelled south to play the Leicester Riders.
The Riders needed to win going if they wanted to secure second place in the table, but the Sharks had a chance to finish fifth.
You could feel the intensity as each team went shot for shot in the opening 10 minutes. They were separated by just two points in favour of the home team, thanks to Marc Loving, who hit a three to give his team the edge in the closing possessions of the quarter.
Loving hit another triple to open the second quarter, which inspired his teammates to join a scoring run – his dunk a few minutes later created a gap of 11.
Sheffield’s Marcus Delpeche turned up the defensive intensity and forced a couple of misses, which gave his team the chance to reel off six straight points, including a Jalon Pipkins dunk.
Pipkins was excited to get out in transition for another jam to put an exclamation point on the comeback and went for a windmill dunk, but rimmed it.
This gave Carrington Love the chance to get back up the other end of the court quickly for a Leicester layup.
Each team’s defence made life difficult in the closing few minutes but Sheffield continued to claw back into the contest and the first half finished 32-29.
Sheffield finally took a slim lead when Jordan Ratinho gave his team a go-ahead layup early in the third quarter, and he set up Delpeche a few possessions later for a potential score.
The big man was fouled and hit both free throws, but finished a field goal the next time down to give the Sharks a five-point lead.
Kimbal Mackenzie sparked a comeback for the Riders by reeling off seven straight for his team.
Sa’eed Nelson brought the visitors back to within two before the third quarter came to a close, but it was still all to play for with the Riders leading 57-55.
Defence continued to be the calling card for both teams but Sheffield’s foul trouble put Leicester to the line – a team that has three of the ten best free throw shooters in the league.
Patrick Whelan hit five out of six from the charity stripe, which helped create a nine-point gap – but it wouldn’t last long
Nelson attempted a long jumper for the Sharks but knew it was off the moment the ball left his hand.
He chased his own rebound in the corner, Delpeche gave him a good screen and the guard curled around for a mid-ranger in the lane that reduced the gap to six with two minutes left.
Pipkins hit a similar-looking jumper from the opposite side of the court to cut the gap to four a few possessions later.
And a potential three for Sheffield by Kipper Nichols hit the back of the rim and Leicester’s Loving grabbed the rebound.
He was fouled, and the third best free throw shooter in the league hit both.
A final play drawn up by Sharks coach Atiba Lyons was disrupted by Jubril Adekoya for the Riders, which he has made a habit of in recent games.
Leicester made all the necessary free throws, and Zach Jackson sent the fans home happy after picking off a bad pass to finish a big dunk to secure second place in the BBL Championship.