BBL Trophy Final 2013 Preview

rsz_bbl_trophyThe second trophy of the season is up for grabs on Saturday in Glasgow as the Leicester Riders take on the Sheffield Sharks at the Emirates Arena.

Rob Paternostro’s side have now contested the last three major finals having won their first trophy in over a decade when they defeated Newcastle to win the BBL Cup back in January. Meanwhile, the opposing Sharks reached their first final since losing the 2011 Play-Off Final when Mersey Tigers completed a memorable treble. Sheffield last competed in the Trophy final in 1998 when they defeated the London Towers while Leicester last reached the competition’s climax in 2006 but were defeated by a Newcastle side on their way to the ‘clean sweep’.

Sheffield have never finished below 6th in the league in 17 seasons in the BBL but currently find themselves languishing in seventh locked in a play-off battle with 10 games remaining. In contrast, the Riders are enjoying a stellar campaign and are already on course to set a new club record for most wins in a regular season. Last season, Leicester achieved their best league finish with a runner-up spot having won 22 games in a season for the first time.

The two sides have met on four occasions this season so far with Leicester victorious in each game. In the season opener, the league leaders edged to a 71-55 success in Sheffield and the two teams then progressed to the last four of the BBL Cup where a semi-final showdown took place. Atiba Lyons’ men fell to a 90-70 defeat on their home court before suffering a heavier defeat on the road as Leicester’s 75-45 gave them a 165-115 aggregate victory. Last month, Sheffield were restricted to just 51 points in a 21 point defeat in front of the Sky cameras in Loughborough and the two sides clash again next Wednesday at the EIS Arena.

Leicester  and Sheffield have had contrasting runs on their way to the final in Glasgow especially in the semi-finals. The Sharks enjoyed a comfortable 176-134 aggregate victory over the Cheshire Phoenix, who were without two leading scorers in Chez Marks and Jerome Gumbs for the second leg. The Riders on the other hand were locked in a tight duel with the Worcester Wolves despite winning 82-73 in the first leg on the road. Paul James‘ men battled back in Leicester and managed to take the overall lead at one point in the fourth before falling short 148-141 on aggregate even with their 68-66 success.

In the earlier stages, Sheffield needed overtime in both of their opening matches as they saw off the Giants 85-73 in Manchester before beating the Glasgow Rocks 84-81 at home in the quarter-finals. Leicester‘s route to the last four was more straight forward with convincing victories on the road following up a 105-73 win against the Essex Leopards with an 82-66 success over the Surrey Heat. 

BJ Holmes has proved a worthy replacement of Gage Daye and leads the team’s Trophy stats in scoring (17.5ppg) and assists (2.8) having top scored in the last eight clash with a 25 point haul. Mike Tuck has had a strong Trophy campaign so far, averaging 16 points per game and 12.8 rebounds a game while Micah Williams (14ppg) and Demetrius Jemison (12ppg) are the other scoring options for the Sharks. Zaire Taylor leads the Riders in scoring with an average of 17 points in the four games while Drew Sullivan‘s stats portray his all-round performances with an average of 14 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6 assists.

Both teams have a number of scoring threats but it’s the Leicester Riders that will go into the final as favourites with their defence key to their successes this season, conceding an average of 67.1 points which is comfortably the best record in the league. A low scoring defensive battle is expected with Tuck and Jemison taking on the likes of Anthony Rowe, Pavol Losonsky and Sullivan in the rebounding department which could prove cruical. A win for Paternostro and his Riders and talk of a ‘clean sweep’ will arise once more.

Advertisements

Leicester and Sheffield set Trophy Final clash

Leicester Riders will take on the Sheffield Sharks in the BBL Trophy Final next Saturday after contrasting semi-final victories.

Rob Paternostro’s men went to Worcester on Friday night and came with an 82-73 lead to take into the second leg. Zaire Taylor led the way with a 29 point haul that was matched by Wolves’ Alex Owumi, who also provided six assists. 24 hours later, Leicester saw their lead wiped out at one stage before falling to a 68-66 defeat which was enough to ensure their place in next week’s final courtesy of a 148-141 aggregate success.

The Riders looked in control during the second period as they built a 12 point lead on the night before the visiting Wolves closed the half with the final eight points to trail by just four at 34-30. The momentum swung when play resumed and Owumi capped a 10-0 run with a three to make it 42-36 to Worcester midway through the third. Leicester recovered to regain the lead but triples in the final minute from Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and Arnas Kazlauskas made it 48-45 in favour of Paul James’ side at the end of the third to trail by six overall.

Prezzie-Blue then scored nine points in the final quarter to put the visitors up by ten as they took the overall lead in the tie for the first time. Owumi maintained the gap with a basket to make it 63-53 with just under five minutes remaining before the Riders stepped up their defensive efforts and forced their opponents into a two-minute baron spell. Leicester regained overall control but were still trailing by six when Taylor nailed a pivotal 3-pointer with 1:32 left.

The wind was taken out of the Worcester sails and Taylor then split his free throw attempts to close out the game with the Wolves winning 68-66 but falling to a seven point defeat across the two games. Owumi top scored with another 29 point haul but only converted 50% from the free throw line as Worcester collectively missed ELEVEN which proved costly. Taylor led the way for the Riders with 16 points as they fell to their first home loss of the season despite reaching their first Trophy final since 2006.

Check-out the highlights of the semi-final two legs: (OfficialBBL)

Sheffield had already built a 14 point advantage (74-60) in the first leg in Cheshire before finishing the job on their home floor with a 102-74 win on Friday. Demetrius Jemison, Olu Babalola and BJ Holmes each had 16 points for the hosts while Micah Williams had 15 points on 5-8 3PT shooting. The Sharks progress to their first Trophy final since 1998 when they beat London Towers 82-79 with John Amaechi leading the way with an incredible 40 points and 16 rebounds.

The task facing the Phoenix increased in difficulty due to the absences of Chez Marks and Jerome Gumbs. Sheffield capitalised on their depleted opponents and a 14-0 spell midway through the second helped them to a commanding 49-29 advantage. Cheshire battled back in the third but the damage had already been done and the Sharks powered on in the fourth, outscoring the visitors 32-22 on their way to a 176-134 victory on aggregate.

The final will take place next Saturday at the Emirates Arena with the Riders looking to follow up their Cup Final success with another trophy while the Sharks go in search of a first piece of silverware since winning the Cup in successive years in 2010-11.

Wolves knock out defending champions; Rocks, Giants and Lions all win in the league

Worcester Wolves reached the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy after a 94-88 win over last season’s winners Newcastle at Sport Central.

Alex Owumi had 34 points on 7-12 shooting from long range whilst pulling down nine rebounds to help the Wolves set up a last four clash with the Leicester Riders. Charles Smith top scored for an Eagles side without Fab Flournoy and Damon Huffman with 23 points. The teams were tied at 61 heading into the final quarter and when Sherrad Prezzie-Blue fired in a triple to give Worcester the lead, they didn’t look back. Smith made it a one point game with a three-pointer with two minutes to go but Owumi responded in kind with one of his own before nailing four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

STAT: This is the first time Worcester have reached the BBL Trophy semi-finals.

Manchester Giants defeated Surrey Heat for the second time at home this season with an 83-70 victory. Steffan Gill was on fire from downtown making 6/7 3-pointers on his way to a game high 28 points. Nick George contributed a further 16 points as he continues to impress with his spell with the Giants. The visiting Heat fell behind early and struggled to get back in the game with a sixth loss for the season putting their title ambitions in jeopardy while Plymouth and Glasgow close in. Julius Joseph had 18 points for Surrey while Frank Holmes had a huge double-double of 16 points and 15 rebounds. Prior to the game, Martelle McLemore was released by Surrey after the American has struggled since returning from injury.

STAT: Surrey have now lost their last four games on the road in the league.

Glasgow Rocks continued their push for a place in the top four with an emphatic 97-58 victory away to the Mersey Tigers. The visitors shot above 50% from the field and were a collective 17/18 from the FT line to draw level on points with Plymouth and Surrey in the standings. Donald Robinson top scored with a game high 20 points while four other players (Harrison, Fantazia, Vanderbeken and Wedemire) all reached double figures. Glasgow only held a seven point lead at the half-time break but a 21-1 run in the third broke the resistance of Mersey, who suffered their 22nd consecutive defeat in the league this season. Phil Wait had a team-high 13 points for the Tigers with Gael Hulsen adding a further 12.

In the final game of the evening, London Lions secured a vital win against their play-off rivals Cheshire to move up to seventh place. Tayo Ogedengbe and Adrien Sturt both top scored with 20 points while Orlan Jackman had 19 for the hosts. The visiting Phoenix were led by 23 point hauls from Chez Marks and Jerome Gumbs. The third quarter proved to pivotal as the Lions outscored their opponents 27-15 to take a 13 point lead into the final quarter. The lead peaked at 20 in the fourth and despite Cheshire‘s late rally it was a comfortable win for the London side.