Leicester Riders 87-78 Newcastle Eagles (11-23, 39-49, 60-61)
(Riders: Jackson, 29; MacKenzie, 12; Love, 9 — Eagles: Hamlet, 23; Cohn, 20; French/Defoe, 10)
Plymouth City Patriots 80-85 Caledonia Gladiators (20-19, 43-40, 62-61)
(Patriots: Hassan, 18; Dang Akodo, 16; Bissainthe, 15 — Gladiators: Durham, 24; Alihodzic, 15; Sloan, 14)
B.Braun Sheffield Sharks 89-75 Cheshire Phoenix (19-21, 42-35, 62-59)
(Sharks: Ramsey, 21; Nichols, 15; Glasgow Jr., 13 — Phoenix: Austin Jr., 18; Jack, 17; Evans, 16)
Manchester Giants 90-96 London Lions (24-31, 45-52, 63-78)
(Giants: Williams, 35; Green, 21; Roberson, 10 — Lions: Best, 28; Zubcic/Sharma/Dekker, 11; Nelson, 10 )
Trailing for the majority and by as many as 14 points, Leicester were able to outscore Newcastle 46-29 in the second half to pull clear in the fourth and heap pressure on the Tyneside outfit, who sit outside the playoff places with four games remaining.
Zach Jackson provided a major spark for the Riders as he led the way with 29 points, going an impressive 10/13 from the field, including five three-pointers.
Javion Hamlet paced Newcastle with 23 points.
Newcastle got off to a solid 5-0 start, holding the Riders scoreless for more than two minutes before Jackson got an easy score inside, which set the tone for the bulk of the game.
The Eagles didn’t let the score deter them as David Cohn drilled a three from the wing along with free throws from Justin Gordon for a 10-2 lead before Patrick Whelan connected from deep himself to narrow the gap.
Leicester were threatening, but the visitors stood tall and a three at the second attempt from Hamlet, forced Riders coach Rob Paternostro into a timeout to a 21-9 lead with 2:17 left.
Trailing 23-11 after one, the Riders would claw their way back, having the better of the opening exchanges as Newcastle were unable to find any joy with their field goal attempts.
Through the 7’3” Aaron Menzies, who caused issues for the Eagles, Leicester were able to bring it back to nine until a fadeaway from Cohn and a three, coming off the screen from Ben Mockford restored Eagles double-digit lead at 30-17.
The visitors were able to maintain a sizable position, and every time Leicester found their groove, Newcastle answered right back and at the half, they led 49-39.
Fired up for the third, Leicester started on a 7-0 run to narrow the gap as Newcastle’s defence was static and Darien Nelson-Henry made it a one-point game (51-50) with a hook under the basket.
Conceding 11 points in the first two minutes of the third, Newcastle needed to stem the bleeding, but the Riders were on a roll as Jackson gave the hosts a 52-51 lead midway through.
Refusing to throw in the towel, Newcastle applied pressure, shaking off their poor start to the quarter to finish strong and restore their lead, albeit by a point going in to the fourth.
Both teams fought tooth and nail at each other to start the final quarter, and the physicality was apparent. Cohn hit a sublime turnaround followed by a triple from Evan Walshe to knot the game at 66-66 early doors.
It was a case of who could hold their nerve, and Leicester made their statement in the midway stage as an 8-0 run, capped by a jumper off the glass by Jackson, gave the home side a 74-66 cushion.
Attacking the basket and getting stops, the Eagles made life difficult for the Riders as a basket under immense pressure from Hamlet reduced the gap to 74-70.
It was a nervy final two minutes for the Riders, but a three from Jackson in the corner with 90 seconds left ultimately sealed the deal.
Having made the nine-hour trip by coach, you could forgive Caledonia for starting slow, which they did. However, they recovered well by taking advantage of Plymouth’s own journey, having played a physical encounter at Surrey the night before.
And with neither team not pulling away any further than seven points until the final quarter, the side from Glasgow pulled clear late on to improve their chances of a top-four finish.
Al Durham paced the winners with 24 points, shooting 63% from the field and going a perfect 3/3 from three-point range. Fahro Alihodizic pulled down a quiet double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Rashad Hassan shook off a minor knock in the early stages of the first quarter to lead Plymouth with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite Hassan going down through injury but still playing, the Patriots got out to a 14-7 lead midway through the first period by getting to the basket and finding holes in the Caledonia defence.
However, the Gladiators also found ways past the Plymouth walls as well, primarily through back door cuts, as two baskets from Alihodzic narrowed the gap, and Durham tied the game with a corner three at 15-15 with 2:29 left.
The hosts weathered the storm and, as the first-period buzzer went, led 20-19. The Gladiators came out in the second and took advantage of rushed jump shots from the Patriots to take a 25-21 lead thanks to an open mid-range bucket from David Sloan.
The BBL Trophy MVP, Sloan, drained a corner jumper, dropping Jules Dang Akodo in the process, followed by a dunk in transition by Jeremiah Bailey to maintain Caledonia’s cushion before Isa Brandon hit a three in the corner to tie the game at 31-31 with 4:45 remaining in a closely contested first half.
But from there, Otis Iyekekpolor came through for the Patriots, hustling for every loose ball, causing havoc en route to and helping Plymouth re-establish the advantage that they held on to at the half.
Plymouth then tried to pull away in the a cagey third as a lay-up from Hassan put the hosts in front 54-49 with 4:30 left in the quarter.
Caledonia would fight back and looked set to enter the final period ahead, until Hassan scored on the third quarter buzzer to swing the advantage back to Plymouth.
The Gladiators though were unfazed and kept up their own momentum, going on a 6-0 run to take a 72-67 lead, midway through the fourth.
With time on their side, Caledonia slowed their offence, much to the frustration of the hosts, and a three at the top from Princeton Onwas with 2:44 left gave them a 77-69 lead to stick the dagger in, for good.
With the home side taking a slim 62-59 lead into the fourth quarter, both teams were competitive and building their own momentum in what was set to be an enticing final ten minutes.
But Sheffield, who secured their spot alongside the Phoenix in the playoffs on Friday night burst into the fourth with a 12-2 run to end their Easter weekend with two wins from two.
Devearl Ramsey led the Sharks with 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals supported by 15 from Kipper Nichols.
After trading three-pointers to start, the visitors – through Larry Austin Jr – would secure a 9-5 advantage in a low-scoring first four minutes, but Sheffield would narrow the gap.
Despite the Sharks attempts, the Phoenix kept on pushing and took a slender 21-19 lead heading into the second quarter when the hosts hit back with a 6-0 run to swing things the take a 25-23 cushion early on.
And through Rodney Glasgow Jr., the Sharks kept the lead going into the half, going in front 42-35.
But Cheshire, who still trailed by six half-way through the third sparked back into life as Marcus Evans drained quick three-pointers to give his side a 53-52 advantage with 4:13 left.
However, Sheffield fought back again, in a recurring theme of the game with an 8-0 run to take a 60-53 cushion and held on to lead by three going into the final quarter.
From there, a game-changing 12-2 run put them in the clear, for good.
Austin Jr. led the charge for the Phoenix with an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double.
With the league wrapped up, the Lions produced a dazzling all-around showing against a talented Manchester side from start to finish.
Giants were able to produce a last-ditch 9-3 run thanks to former Lion Dirk Williams to make it close, but London would see the clock out.
In a three-point shootout, that saw a total of 22 connected, Aaron Best hit six on his way to 28 points with Williams going 7/13 from deep on his way to a game-high 35 for the hosts, while also grabbing 11 boards.
Known for their high-intensity game, Manchester would be brought down to earth at the start as a Best triple gave the Lions a 13-8 lead but both teams were scrappy and not able to execute their offences like fans have seen throughout the season.
The Giants hit back but London would take a seven-point lead going into the second quarter, which they extended to 37-27 thanks to a jumper from Sam Dekker, who continues his comeback from injury.
Lions would sustain their double-digit cushion for the majority of the period until Nick Lewis drained a three from beyond half-court on the buzzer to bring the Belle Vie crowd to its feet to narrow the gap to 52-45.
Unaffected, the Lions showed their champion mentality and remained focused on the task at hand as a 6-0 run extended their advantage to 69-51 with 5:39 left in the third.
Leading by as many as 21 points, London settled for a 78-63 lead after three, and were able to see out the fourth quarter to wrap up the Easter Sunday action.
London head back to 7Days EuroCup action this week as they travel to Barcelona to face Joventut Badalona, while Cheshire Phoenix host Surrey Scorchers on an exciting Wednesday night.