Manchester Giants 84-87 Cheshire Phoenix (28-20, 47-44, 71-73)
(Giants: Williams, 20; Fletcher, 19; Green, 18 — Phoenix: Anderson, 19; Austin Jr.,/Archibald, 18; Jack, 13 )
Caledonia Gladiators 90-82 Bristol Flyers (24-18, 46-37, 62-59)
(Gladiators: Alihodzic, 18; Sloan/Durham, 16; Bailey, 15– Flyers: Miller, 21; Bell III, 18; Olison, 13)
London Lions 83-81 Leicester Riders (30-16, 47-48, 68-65)
(Lions: Oni, 18; Nelson, 16; Zubcic, 13 — Riders: Love, 17; Walshe, 14; Jackson, 13)
Newcastle Eagles 71-82 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (18-30, 36-50, 52-67)
(Eagles: Johnson, 26; Cohn, 14; Gordon, 10 — Sharks: Ramsey, 15; Koch/Nichols, 13; Glasgow Jr., 10)
And on ‘Retro Night’, the Phoenix – known as the Chester Jets – ruled supreme just like they did in the early 2000s to improve their confirmed post-season position.
Jamell Anderson led the way for the winners with 19 points.
Amorie Archibald, who had 18 points, ultimately sealed the win from the free throw line with 6.5 seconds left. Dirk Williams, who led Manchester with 20, had the chance to take the game to overtime.
Agonisingly though, his long three only hit the bottom of the backboard as time expired.
True to their free-scoring form, the Giants – who lead the league in scoring at 90 points a game – raced out to a 9-0 lead, capped by a thunderous slam by newly-crowned BBL Player of the Month Tajh Green before Anderson finally got Cheshire off the mark.
The fast start from Manchester was derailed a little by the visitors, who narrowed the gap to 19-15 with 4:30 left to force a timeout from Giants coach Vince Macaulay.
The Phoenix would reduce the deficit to 22-20 before the Giants would end on a 6-0 run to lead 28-20 after one.
Despite the mini dunk fest between Green and Anderson, Cheshire would fight back and thanks to a 12-0 run, due to patient offence and sloppiness from the hosts, the visitors had their first lead of the game at 36-32.
Back-to-back baskets inside from Rahmon Fletcher and Williams would knot the game at 36-36 and even though both teams would trade scores, Manchester would edge ahead 47-44 at the break.
Both teams found their accuracy from the field to start the third quarter but the Giants would hold on to the advantage until a three from Archibald tied the game at 51-51 with less than two minutes of the third played.
Jostling for position, the Phoenix would snatch the lead thanks to a three from Anderson only for a retaliation dunk from Green restoring the Giants advantage.
But unlike the first two quarters, it was the Phoenix who would enter the fourth quarter ahead, 73-71.
The visitors would pull further ahead as an Archibald triple pulled his side in front 82-77 with less than five minutes to play. However Manchester would bring it back again to set up a tense finale.
Caledonia Gladiators boosted their top-four chances with a 90-82 win over the Bristol Flyers at the Emirates Arena.
Fahro Alihodzic paced Caledonia with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Mike Miller had 20 for the Flyers.
Offensively, it was scrappy to start, but the hosts burst out towards the midway point of the opening quarter having trailed 8-5, going on a 9-0 run highlighted by a slam from Jeremiah Bailey to lead 14-8 with 5:15 left.
Leading 24-18 after the first, Caledonia stamped their authority on the game in the early part of the second as scores from Al Durham and Jonny Bunyan gave the BBL Trophy winners a 29-18 cushion.
Durham and Bunyan combined again to start the second as Caledonia sprinted to a 29-18 lead with less than a minute played in the second.
Bristol would fight back but the Gladiators maintained their sizable advantage as five quick points from Bunyan again handed the hosts a 39-25 cushion.
VJ King would provide spark for the Flyers in the second and a dunk from Malcolm Delpeche in the dying seconds finally narrowed the gap to single figures at the half.
The pace of the game quickened a little in the third and in the early stages, the Gladiators lead reached double figures thanks to Princeton Onwas and Bailey.
The Flyers would come back again as a 10-2 run thanks to Thomas Bell III and King narrowed the gap to 53-49 with 4:50 left in the third.
And despite Caledonia holding on to their lead, a pull-up jumper from Miller made it a one-possession game going into the fourth.
It was the worst possible start for the Flyers as Leslee Smith fouled Onwas on a three-point attempt leaving the latter free to take advantage at he foul line to extend Caledonia’s lead to six.
Flyers – though Bell III – would narrow the gap to 68-65 in a scrappy start to the fourth only for Alihodzic to balloon the lead back to 74-67.
Bristol never got closer than three points to the Gladiators, as the pride of Scotland lifted their top-four chances with a win.
Leading by as many as 21 points, the Lions looked to be cruising but Leicester made the last stages of the game nervous for the fans packed inside the one-time Olympic venue.
Free throws from Carrington Love, who had 17 points, made it 83-81 with less than two minutes to play and desperate defence from the home side forced Leicester to finish 0/3 from the field as a overtime-bound attempt from Love missed its mark.
Miye Oni led London with 18 points off 8/15 shooting with Luke Nelson hitting three triples en route to 16.
Following a slow start from the Lions, they quickly bounced back as a three from Luke Nelson, coming off the bench handed his side a 13-7 lead with 4:51 left in the first.
Leicester struggled from the field in the first as they scored the majority of their points from the foul line towards the end of the quarter, but London had no such issues and another three from Nelson as the clock wound down handed the hosts a 30-16 advantage.
Putting their troubles behind them, the Riders came out fired up in the second, despite trailing by as many as 21 points in the first two minutes.
It started with a 10-2 run as the Lions temperament at times got the better of them. That heat inspired a 17-0 finish to the second from Leicester with seven of those points coming from the foul line as they led by a point at the half.
Stung by their second quarter collapse, you sensed that London were eager to respond in the third and right away, a three-point play from Tomislav Zubcic restored the Lions lead.
Leicester though, wouldn’t go away and kept on the heels of the champions as they scored a chunk of their points from the foul line as foul trouble hit the Lions again, but London were able to hang on to a 68-65 cushion after three.
It was a tug of war in the fourth, but the newly-crowned champions were able to edge it.
They were made to sweat a little, but the Sharks can celebrate another post-season spot as they maintain their proud record of qualifying in every season since joining in 1994.
Devearl Ramsey led the way for the Sharks with 15 points on 54% shooting, while dishing out five assists. Bennett Koch and Kipper Nichols added 13 with the former pulling down 10 rebounds.
Kyle Johnson led all scorers for Newcastle with 26 points as the loss damages their own dreams of reaching the Playoffs.
Gaining an early 11-6 advantage with more than three minutes of the first played, Sheffield’s offence was more poised to start before Johnson drilled a three to calm the nerves of the home-town Eagles fans to narrow the gap to two.
However, the Sharks capitalised on broken offences from the hosts and went on an 8-2 spurt to lead 19-11, midway through the first.
And as the first ended, Sheffield led 30-18, which only grew in the early stages of the second as a jumper from Ramsey gave the visitors a 43-22 cushion.
Slowly, the Eagles chipped away at Sheffield’s lead through getting stops and forcing turnovers as scores from David Cohn and Javion Hamlet gave Newcastle hope going into the break, trailing 50-36.
Despite Newcastle trying to shrink the deficit further, Sheffield maintained their double-digit lead for the vast majority of the third period as a fadeaway from Rodney Glasgow Jr. on the buzzer handed the Sharks a 67-52 lead.
There was fight left in the Eagles, as they reduced the deficit to single figures, but the Sharks were too composed, sailing to a win and securing a place in the top eight.