Surrey Scorchers 81-90 Leicester Riders (16-22, 34-51, 59-71)
(Scorchers: Martin/Jefferson, 15; Johnson/Wang, 14; Carey, 7 – Riders: Nelson-Henry, 16; Jackson, 15; Thornton, 14)
Bristol Flyers 72-76 Sheffield Sharks (14-21, 36-36, 46-54)
(Flyers: King, 21; Bell III/Watson-Gayle, 12; Mahan, 10 – Sharks: Banks Jr., 18; Delpeche, 17; Glasgow Jr., 15)
With the victory, the Riders bounced back after their sudden defeat to Caledonia Gladiators in their last game to record their second win over Surrey in Guildford this season.
Darien Nelson-Henry led the winners
with 16 points with Zach Jackson adding 15.
Jefferson completed the game with 15
points in what was only a taster of the ambitious guard’s skillset. Ryan Martin
also posted 15 for the Scorchers.
From the tip-off, the Scorchers’
defence had an encouraging start. A deflection from Padiet Wang set up Kyle
Carey nicely for a runaway layup.
But it wasn’t long before the
Riders’ physicality was displayed on the attack. Drawing seven fouls, five
separate Riders players made trips to the free-throw line in the opening
quarter, a gift for coach Rob Paternostro, as his side lead the league in
free-throw percentage (78.3%).
Making his debut six minutes into
the quarter, Jefferson’s first shot – a three-pointer no less – connected to
start the Scorchers’ attack.
Great Britain international Aaron
Menzies paired nicely with Jubril Adekoya, coming off the bench to clog up the
lanes defensively while acting as effective post options on the attack.
To compliment the bigs finding room,
Jackson found plenty of points in the opening quarter, scoring in transition
and the free-throw line without any misses, effortlessly accumulating 12 in the
first half to go along with three boards.
Surrey turned the tide defensively,
with two consecutive steals and a six-point run cutting Leicester’s grip on the
Recharged defensively, Leicester
sought new attacking options in Kimbal Mackenzie, who sank a confident corner
three following a great Scorchers pressure defence.
Leicester persisted in drawing
contact to get to the line, with 21 free throw attempts to Surrey’s nine,
before entering into the second half.
Surrey nevertheless battled through
Leicester’s fortified defence with centre Nelson-Henry at its core.
A dynamic partnership between playmaker Quincy Taylor and athletic finisher Shakem Johnson culminated in a handful of buckets off forced turnovers for Scorchers as the first half wound down, though trailing to the Riders by 17.
The second half began with a
one-versus-one contest between Leicester’s Derryck Thornton and Carey, with
both players exchanging shifty finishes.
A battle of the bigs also emerged
between Nelson-Henry and Surrey’s Boban Jacdonmi, with both making clever and
calculated moves under the basket to score.
Wang began to fill the stat sheet
midway through the quarter; a majestic spin move down the lane creating ample
separation for a right-handed finish followed by a sly pocket pass to Luke
Busumbru, whose strong finish forced the Riders into a timeout.
Lloyd Gardner’s Surrey side found
their groove from beyond the arc, Martin and Jefferson knocking down expert
shots from long range, catching Leicester off-guard, and bringing the score
Wang continued to be involved with
critical baskets for the Scorchers’ comeback quest. Responding well to Surrey’s
urgency to get three-pointers and reduce the scoreline.
But Leicester’s perimeter defence
sharpened, disallowing a hatful of crucial outside shots.
Unfortunately, Surrey’s intense
defensive effort landed them in foul trouble as the final quarter reached a
Seven points separating both sides
with a minute left, Mackenzie was able to draw contact on back-to-back
possessions, converting valuable free throws to extend Leicester’s lead.
With Surrey out of time on the
clock, they had to surrender despite outperforming Leicester in the second
half. The Riders add another win to their record, a fifth in their last six
In a bruising encounter, the
visitors came out victorious, with Channel Banks Jr. and Marcus Delpeche
providing season-high performances to muscle out a menacing Bristol team led by
November’s BBL Coach of the Month Andreas Kapoulas.
Banks finished with a team-high 18
points. Delpeche had 17.
In what has become typical of this
fixture, both teams were neck-and-neck for most of the opening quarter.
None other than VJ King got the
scoring underway for the Flyers – sending a quick reminder to spectators that
he had 19 in their last home game with Sheffield.
King would go on to finish the game
with a game-high 21 points.
However, Sharks were quick to
respond; a 5-0 run emphasised by a Banks Jr. three to put Sheffield ahead for
the first time in the game.
Thomas Bell III, slowly returning to
form following injury, was able to use his physical presence to get to the
charity stripe early on.
Marcus Delpeche and Rodney
Glasgow Jr. contributed to Sheffield’s early surge of points – the former with
a classy inside hook shot, while the latter demonstrated his ability to score
Flyers guard Jelani Watson-Gayle
aided a Flyers comeback, distributing the ball unselfishly, helping Delpeche
and King gather easy much-needed points as the hosts trailed by seven after the
The second quarter of play saw the
Flyers begin a comeback. An eclectic mix of great shooting courtesy of Brandon
Mahan and a defensive effort by Tevin Olison took the Sharks by surprise.
Responding to a scoring drought, an
eye-catching lob pass from Banks Jr. to Delpeche got the Sharks bench pumped up
to keep the Flyers at bay as they held a tight lead.
An injection of intensity for the Flyers in the second quarter made for a suspenseful back-and-forth game – all tied up at 36 heading into the half-time break.
The second half got off to a fiery
start for the hosts, with Olison and Bell III combining forces for a
picturesque transition slam dunk play.
Bristol’s defensive intensity shone
through as the game approached the final quarter as they boasted a combined ten
steals and blocks in sharp contrast to Sheffield’s three.
Bennett Koch was efficient in the low post – tallying 11 points in just under 13 minutes spent on the hardwood. In doing so, the Sharks took back control of the game to round off the third quarter.
The final period witnessed more thrilling back-and-forth play yet. With Bristol’s Delpeche forced into foul trouble, the hosts prioritised their outside scorers, with a run of three-pointers sunk in by King and Watson-Gayle.
A heroic and-one play by Bell III
put the Flyers ahead. Despite jubilation from the crowd, the visitors quickly
converted three consecutive layups to take a single-point advantage.
Returning to the floor, skipper
Glasgow Jr. provided a textbook floater layup after easily driving by his
defender, giving the Sharks a three-point advantage with 12 seconds remaining.
Following the timeout, Ogunyemi was
sent to the free-throw line for the Sharks, who converted both. On the next
play, Olison kept the Flyers in touch.
However, with Bristol having to foul
or sacrifice the game, Banks Jr. found himself at the charity stripe, making
both shots to keep the Sharks afloat and in the lead by four.
With a nerve-racking final quarter, the Sharks could withstand the Flyers to score a deserved victory.
To relive both of Saturday’s exciting matchups, click HERE!