Surrey Scorchers 106-103 Manchester Giants (26-24, 24-26, 19-21, 37-32)
Scorchers – McFolley 38, Steel 18, Johnson 16; Giants – Williams 23, Green 22, Josephs 19
Plymouth City Patriots 68-90 Newcastle Eagles (19-20, 12-27, 17-21, 20-22)
Patriots – Hassan 18, Bissainthe 18, Gadsden 10; Eagles – Johnson 21, Gordon 18, Mockford/Ubiaro 14
B Braun Sheffield Sharks 65-73 Bristol Flyers (9-19, 21-21, 11-13, 24-20)
Sharks – Nelson 11, Glasgow Jr 10, Koch 10; Flyers – Watson-Gayle 19, Delpeche 12, Bell III 12
Caledonia Gladiators 61-93 London Lions (14-23, 16-31, 19-24, 12-15)
Gladiators – Durham 13, Malcolm 11, Onwas 11; Lions – Hruban 19, Soluade 16, Nelson/Sharma 14
Cheshire Phoenix 96-92 Leicester Riders (28-27, 25-24, 22-24, 21-17)
Phoenix – Archibald 26, Austin 22, Anderson 17; Riders – Mackenzie 17, Walshe 15, Bowman 13
A full slate on the final day of the regular season shook up the BBL Playoff seeding.
While the Surrey Scorchers were already eliminated from the next stage of the season, their win over the Manchester Giants – thanks to Josh McFolley’s incredible third-quarter three-point barrage – gave the fans in Surrey Sports Park an entertaining end to the year.
The second game, between the Plymouth City Patriots and the Newcastle Eagles, had major implications – win or go home.
The visitors to Plymouth Pavillions overcame an injury to Newcastle’s Hasahn French and built up a big cushion to win 68-90 and advance to the playoffs. Kyle Johnson put up 21 to eliminate the Patriots in the process.
A loss for the B Braun Sheffield Sharks at the hands of the Bristol Flyers, 65-73, meant they matched the Manchester Giants on points, but moved below them in the standings due to the head-to-head results.
It was a defensive effort from both sides, but Jelani Watson-Gayle proved he can score against almost any competition by finishing with 19 to put Bristol ahead over Sheffield in a close affair.
Caledonia Gladiators wanted to show that their Trophy win over the London Lions was no fluke and stuck with them early, but the English team pulled ahead to a 93-61 victory thanks to their defensive intensity and 19 points from Vojtech Hruban.
To close the BBL regular season, the Phoenix ensured no fans left the Cheshire Oaks Arena with fingernails in tact.
An early lead over the Leicester Riders disappeared as both sides went shot for shot throughout the remained of the game.
Amore Archibald’s consistent output for the Phoenix made up 26 points and a strong team effort defensively down the stretch kept the Riders from taking the last win of the season.
Two out of the Surrey Scorchers three wins this season came at Surrey Sports Park, along with several close losses. It has been a point of focus to enter each home contest with heart and fight.
Fifth place was up for grabs, however, when the Manchester Giants travelled south for their final game of the regular season.
So both sides were focused for the tip, but the difference in the scoreline between them at that stage was identical to the gap when they headed into the locker room for half time.
Tajh Green led the Giants with 13 of his team’s 24 points in the first quarter, whereas a more balanced Scorchers scoring effort made up Surrey’s 26.
The second quarter belonged to two players who joined their respective teams mid-way through the season.
Kofi Josephs showed his shooting prowess for Manchester. He hit multiple threes off passes from Callum Jones and Rahmon Fletcher.
Meanwhile, Josh McFolley’ stood out for the home team just as his Surrey was slipping behind. The guard reeled off seven quick points to lead a comeback and tie it up at 50 each after 20 minutes.
The Giants built up some momentum in the third and it was Josephs who secured their biggest lead of the game. He drove hard for a tough, contested layup while being fouled by Tayo Ogedengbe.
He hit the free throw for an 11-point lead, but Josh Steel answered with five quick points for Surrey that inspired his team and they trailed by two after three, 71-69.
At this stage, Manchester still looked like they might secure fifth place in the BBL Playoff seeding. But McFolley had other ideas.
He opened the quarter with an incredible step-back three, and followed it up the next time down with another long distance bomb to tie it up.
This counted for six of 20 points in about seven minutes. Every time he pulled up from distance it felt like it went in, and every time, the Scorchers home fans got louder.
He wasn’t being selfish with the ball – as the Giants’ defence started focusing on him, he was able to pick out teammates, such as Boban Jacdonmi for a pick-and-roll layup, and Oedengbe in the open court.
McFolley took a quick breather after giving Surrey a nine-point lead, which is when Manchester’s star guard took over.
Fletcher found William Lee, Josephs and Dirk Williams for three straight open shots, which cut the lead to one point for Surrey with 40 seconds to go.
On an out-of-timeout play drawn up by Scorchers coach Lloyd Gardner, Andrew Lawrence got a straight-line drive to push his team up by three.
Manchester gave the ball to Josephs to create in isolation and he got downhill but faced great defence at the rim and missed the layup.
Lee grabbed the offensive rebound for the Giants and found a cutting Green for a two-handed big man jam.
McFolley was fouled and hit both free throws to tie his BBL career high of 38 and secure a three-point cushion for his team with seconds to go. Fletcher’s final attempt fell short.
The win did nothing for the Scorchers, who were already out of the playoff race, but try telling that to the Surrey faithful who stuck around until well after the buzzer to thank their team for a season full of heart and something to celebrate before it all ended.
A difficult stretch in the final few weeks of the season saw the Plymouth City Patriots take on four of the league’s five best teams in a bid to secure the last spot in the playoffs – and this was their last chance to book a ticket into the first round.
Meanwhile, the Newcastle Eagles maintained flight and hunted down the eighth spot – a win over the Patriots would mark the first occasion all season they’ve featured in a playoff position all season.
The Plymouth Pavillions crowd knew what was at stake, and got loud for the local BBL team, but Newcastle’s Hasahn French and Kyle Johnson paid no attention.
They opened the scoring for the Eagles and were present all over the floor throughout the opening 10 minutes.
Plymouth point guard Elvisi Dusha kept finding big man Rashad Hassan for opportunities to score rolling to the rim.
But the Eagles began pulling away midway through the second quarter. Unfortunately, French suffered a leg injury while blocking Hassan’s shot after landing awkwardly.
Despite leaving the arena, his team rallied and went on an 18-7 run to close the first half with a 47-31 lead.
The second half opened up with Newcastle’s Ben Mockford doing what he does best – hitting threes. He was successful on two, and got a transition layup that gave the Eagles a 26-point lead.
Plymouth Ryan Bissainthe opened the fourth quarter with a three and a big dunk that hoped to inspire his team to a strong finish, but the Eagles have Darius Defoe.
The Newcastle captain has 27 pieces of silverware at home, and knew the importance of the moment. He threw down a timely dunk off a Johnson assist to put a stop to any momentum the Patriots hoped to build.
Newcastle’s lead was 20 points at the end of the third and it reached 22 by the end of the game.
The victory gave the visitors their third win in the last four games, which was enough to move into eighth for the first time all season, and progress to the playoffs.
Plymouth accepted their fifth straight loss and bowed out of BBL competition for 2022-23.
With fifth place still a possibility for the B Braun Sheffield Sharks, they had every reason to put on a big effort to finish the regular season when Bristol Flyers drove north to Ponds Forge.
But the visitors have flown near the top of the championship table all season thanks to great defence, which is what they used in the first quarter to keep the home team limited to just nine points in the opening quarter.
Bristol’s Mike Miller got things started early with a three, and Malcolm Delpeche was his usual relentless self on the offensive glass to create put-back opportunities and create a 10-point gap after 10 minutes.
Jelani Watson-Gayle has played the role of super-sub for most of this season and hit a couple of threes in the second quarter.
On another attempt, Sheffield’s Marcus Delpeche fouled the guard and sent him to the free throw line, where he hit two out of three.
This kept a double-digit lead for the Flyers, but good teamwork from the Sharks played the visitors to a draw in the second quarter, and the first half finished 40-30 in Bristol’s favour.
Bennett Koch and Jalon Pipkins got scoring early in the third for Sheffield, but Bristol focused up on the defensive end and held their opponents scoreless for four minutes, which allowed the Flyers to pull away to a 14-point lead.
Koch’s improvement throughout his BBL career has made him one of the more skilled big men in the league. He showed this while working in the pick and roll with Rodney Glasgow Jr, and with his back to the basket against Malcolm Delpeche.
But his mini-run in the paint, scoring two points each time, wasn’t enough to match the three-pointers from Brandon Mahan and Watson-Gayle, who helped keep a double-digit gap until the final minute when a Koch dunk cut it to a 73-65 loss for the Sharks.
With the Giants losing earlier in the day, Sheffield will face off against the Leicester Riders in the playoffs.
Not many BBL teams have wins over the London Lions this year – but one of them was the Caledonia Gladiators in the Trophy competition.
With the English team travelling north to Glasgow for the ultimate game in the regular season, the home team showed no signs of backing down despite early scoring from London’s Tarik Phillip.
The Lions were tight on defence, but Prince Onwas had a clutch moment for Caledonia when he was the first player to chase down an airballed shot and had to shoot from three with the shotclock getting low.
He followed this with a pair of free throws to keep the gap at just four points. But that’s when London’s Luke Nelson got the scoring touch going.
He scored the final five points of the quarter, and Vojtech Hruban topped and tailed a 10-2 run for the Lions to start the second.
A series of Josh Sharma dunks and drives through the lane created a 24-point gap for the visitors as they entered the locker room for a breather.
Ali Durham did his best to keep Caledonia in the contest in the third. His eight points were appreciated, but Hruban’s hot shooting and Sharma’s athleticism kept London in control.
Both sides went deep into the benches for the fourth quarter, when the defensive intensity won out. Luke Nelson finished the game out with five straight points to make it a 32-point victory.
It marked the Lions 32nd win on the season, which is the second-most wins in a BBL Championship season – behind the One Health Sheffield Sharks in 2002 coached by Chris Finch.
Regardless of the result between the Cheshire Phoenix and the Leicester Riders, the seeds were set going into the BBL Playoffs.
This might have been why the Riders got off to a slow start, as the Phoenix opened up a 13-point lead early, thanks to a pair of threes from Amorie Archibald and Jamell Anderson, who assisted each other on each long ball.
The Riders player that has shown heart and hustle every time Leicester have been in a tough situation this year has been Kimbal Mackenzie. He did exactly the same to instigate a comeback.
He helped Evan Walshe to a layup, who returned the favour with an assist on a Mackenzie jumper. But then the point guard found his own shot and hit a beautiful floater to cut the deficit to one point before the buzzer.
The second quarter was much more of a back and forth affair reminiscent of the early BBL days between the Chester Jets and Leicester City Riders – which seemed appropriate given the vintage uniforms each team was wearing for the occasion.
The Phoenix were more impressive in terms of shooting percentage, but the Riders launched more threes with Patrick Whelan, Walshe and Blake Bowman each hitting at least one.
Marc Loving came into the second half with a takeover focus. He scored nine straight for Leicester but Anderson went head to head with him for Cheshire.
The home team were rolling just six players deep and were slightly outscored in the third quarter – a sign of tiredness?
Not a chance.
Motivated by a loud home crowd at Cheshire Oaks Arena, David Ulph got the scoring going in the final frame and was all over the floor as an assist and rebounding man.
Ulph found Maceo Jack for a big three and the Phoenix got a chance to run an out of timeout play 30 seconds later, when coach Ben Thomas found Jack again to put the team up by seven.
Leicester wasn’t going down without one last effort, which came from Victor Ndoukou. His driving layup was followed by a Walshe three, which cut the Riders deficit to two points.
Rob Paternostro called a timeout for the Riders to set up a shot, but good defence from Cheshire’s Anderson forced a bad pass that ended up in the hands of Larry Austin for the Phoenix.
A pair of free throws put the team up by four for a Cheshire Phoenix win in the final game of the regular season.