Riders dominate end of season awards

Riders_Horse_LogoLeicester Riders completed a historic treble this season and their dominance was reflected in the end of season awards.

The Coach of the Year accolade was claimed by Rob Paternostro for the second time while the player equivalent was also won for a second time by Drew Sullivan.

Riders’ head-coach first won the award in 2008-09 – his first season in charge at the club – and then led his side to their best season last year but a first club Championship and treble tops the lot.

Sullivan led the way for Leicester in numerous departments and his defensive intensity set the tone for his side as they became renowned for the defensive strength throughout the season. The 33 year-old, who captained GB at last year’s Olympics, had a stellar campaign, finishing as the club’s leading scorer with 509 points at an average of 14.5 ppg whilst also averaging 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

The Player of the Year was joined in the BBL team of the Year by team-mate Jay Couisnard, who finished as the runner-up in the MVP voting and also earned the Cup Final MVP award in January. The American was a decisive factor in a number of games for the Riders, in particular their overtime victory in Manchester when Couisnard netted two buzzer-beaters to get the win.

Travis Holmes finished the season in sensational form which helped him take third in the MVP race whilst taking a place in the team of the year.  The Surrey Heat guard and twin of Chavis, finished with an impressive 20.6 ppg average helped by an incredible 44 point haul against Cheshire.

The final two spots on the team of the year were taken by Kareem Maddox and Matt Schneck who had a personal battle in the stakes for the best rebounder. It was the BBL rookie who came out on top with an average of 10.7 per game while Schneck complimented a healthy 16.5 points per game with an average of 10.1 rebounds.

The Americans were both ‘walking double-doubles’ for their teams with the Plymouth Raiders’ centre opening the season with 10 straight games with double-figures in points and rebounds while Maddox produced arguably the stat-line of the season with 26p/20r/4a/3st/4bl against Surrey in a run of ten straight double-doubles.

The BBL also announced the British team of the Year and Defensive team of the Year and they were both as follows:

British Team– Orlan Jackman; Drew Sullivan; Sam Cricelli; Anthony Rowe and Mike Tuck
Defensive Team– Chavis Holmes; Jay Couisnard; Zaire Taylor; Drew Sullivan and Kareem Maddox

Here are some of the crucial stats from the season via the BBL and Sporting Pulse.

Most points: Charles Smith– 691; Best average: Chez Marks– 22.8;
Most in a game: Charles Smith– 49 v Durham
Best FG%: Demetrius Jemison– 61*; Best 3PT%: Arnas Kazlauskas– 44.6*;
Best FT%: BJ Holmes– 88.3*
Most FG made: Charles Smith– 261; Most 3PT made: Joe Chapman– 108;
Most FT made: Tayo Ogedengbe– 134
Most rebounds: Kareem Maddox– 376; Best avge: Kareem Maddox– 10.7;
Most in a game: Kareem Maddox– 20 v Surrey
Most assists: Joe Chapman– 201; Best average: Ralph Bucci– 5.5
Most steals: Chavis Holmes– 95; Best average: Travis Holmes– 3.0
Most blocks: Alif Bland– 76; Best average: Alif Bland– 2.4
Most double-doubles: Matt Schneck– 22;
Triple-doubles:  Ralph Bucci v London (10p/11r/12a) & Joe Chapman v Durham (18p/10r/11a)

*minimum 100 attempts

London seal final play-off spot as regular season concludes

The quarter-final line-up for the BBL play-offs has been finalised as the regular season came to an end this weekend.

London Lions claimed 8th spot in dramatic style with a last-gasp win in Manchester to reach the play-offs.

The visitors raced out to an early lead and looked in control before the Giants mounted a valiant fightback to draw level late in the fourth before London‘s deadline day signing Rod Brown broke their hearts. The guard, who moved from Plymouth in February, layed the ball in, in the dying seconds to finish with 18 points in the nail-biting 87-85 victory. Tayo Ogedengbe led the way for the Lions with 25 points in a winner takes all battle for the final play-off place.

Manchester were down by as many as 21 points in the second quarter but compiled a 19-3 run in the final quarter to give themselves hope before falling just short. Jeff Jones’ men then finished the season on a high with their third straight win on the road after a 114-92 success in Durham to seal 9th place on their return to the BBL after James Jones top scored with 24 points.

The battle for a top four place had involved four team for several weeks and was finally settled after Glasgow and Surrey picked up the necessary victories to cement their places. Plymouth go into the post-season having lost four games in a row and now face a trip to Scotland in the play-offs for the second straight season.

The Raiders first lost to Worcester, who had a double-win over the weekend to finish their campaign in style, and then fell to a tight defeat against Surrey, who prevailed in overtime. Gavin Love’s men went down 106-69 at home on Saturday before the agonizing 101-99 defeat beyond regulation came 24 hours later as Travis Holmes continued his hot streak for the Heat with 27 points.

Surrey sealed fourth place with their overtime win and now face Worcester in the play-offs. Paul James’ men enjoyed a comprehensive win against Plymouth to end their campaign on a high having ended the unbeaten streak of Leicester the previous day. The Wolves had six players in double figures against Plymouth while Arturas Masiulis had a 19 point haul in their last home game of the season.

With the Championship title already wrapped up, Rob Paternostro rested several key stars in the 86-58 defeat against Worcester with several members of the uni team fielded. However, the big stars returned on Sunday for their final league game and Leicester completed a perfect season at home with their 17th win in front of their home fans after beating Newcastle 86-75. The Eagles took the opportunity to rest some of their big names with Damon Huffman, Charles Smith and Joe Chapman all absent as Darius Defoe stepped up with 32 points.

Newcastle completed their home campaign with a 93-80 win over Glasgow to delay their third place finish as Huffman exploded for 36 points on 6-9 shooting from 3-PT range. The Eagles had suffered a defeat in Sheffield earlier in the week as the Sharks were victorious 80-70 in a play-off dress rehearsal. The BBL Trophy winners then finished their season with an 85-72 win in Cheshire to move a game over the .500 mark after double-doubles from Demetrius Jemison (20-10) and Mike Tuck (18-15).

Mersey Tigers became the first BBL team to go a whole season without a win after being beaten by Durham and Glasgow over the week-end. The Tigers lost 87-100 to the Wildcats in their final home game before suffering their 33rd league defeat in Scotland as the Rocks secured third spot with a 90-57 win on Sunday.

Play-Off Quarter-Finals:

Leicester Riders (1) v London Lions (8)
Newcastle Eagles (2) v Sheffield Sharks (7)
Glasgow Rocks (3) v Plymouth Raiders (6)
Surrey Heat (4) v Worcester Wolves (5)

Semi-Finals– Highest remaining seed v Lowest remaining seed while the other two teams play each other.

All ties played over two legs until the Final at Wembley Arena on 28th April.

The Weekend: Riders Edge Closer to Championship

Leicester Riders are now just virtually one win away from the BBL title after a stunning overtime win in Manchester took their unbeaten streak in the league to 14 games.

Jay Couisnard forced OT with a THREE on the buzzer after Leicester had trailed the Giants by as many as 20 points before nailing the game-winner with another clutch triple at the death. The BBL Cup Final MVP led the way with 31 points as the Riders battled on in the absence of Zaire Taylor and Jorge Calvo.

STAT:

24 hours earlier, Rob Paternostro’s men continued their perfect home record in the league this season with their 13th win on their home floor, beating the Glasgow Rocks 84-71. Leicester used a strong third quarter as a platform for their success and were led by a 24 point haul from Drew Sullivan.

Another benefactory of the Leicester win against Manchester were the Sheffield Sharks – who became the seventh team to qualify for the play-offs. However, Newcastle now have to beat Worcester on Tuesday to avoid losing their crown despite wins over Durham (96-92) and Mersey (92-69) this weekend despite the absence of Kareem Maddox and Damon Huffman.

The battle for the top four intensified over the weekend with Plymouth and Surrey doing double-duty to capitalise on Glasgow‘s loss to Leicester and Worcester‘s double blow. The Raiders claimed third with a 98-92 win in Cheshire following a 93-79 victory at home to the Tigers on Friday. Javarris Barnett had a 28 point showing against the Phoenix, who were already out of contention for the play-offs after a loss to Surrey two days earlier.

It was a good weekend for Surrey as they bounced back from successive defeats last week to record a double victory. Travis Holmes continued his fine run of form with a 30 point haul in the 108-84 home win against Cheshire and a game-high 26 in Durham when the Heat won 99-87 in front of the Sky cameras.

STAT: Travis Holmes has now scored 100 points in his last three games for Surrey following a 44 point haul last Sunday.

The weekend was nearly a Giant one for Manchester before their heart-breaking loss against Leicester on Sunday. Jeff Jones’ side are still in the hunt for the play-offs after they pulled off an impressive 91-82 in Worcester as David Watts returned to haunt his former side with 29 points. The Wolves had seen their seven game win streak come to an end the day before when Sheffield continued their own win streak with a 78-73 success after a strong first half.

Heat too much for depleted Phoenix

Sunday 3rd March- Surrey Sports Park

Surrey Heat put a poor February behind them with an 87-78 victory over Cheshire Phoenix as they look to march towards a top-four finish.

Despite his side’s first win in five league games, Creon Raftopoulos was not overwhelmed by Surrey‘s display, particularly on the defensive end:

“We’re happy to get the victory but I’m not thrilled by the performance against an under-manned Cheshire team. We need to get back to play and playing good defence for the whole game and not just in spurts like today,” said Heat‘s head-coach.

The visiting Phoenix were once again without Chez Marks and Jerome Gumbs but their player-coach Matt Lloyd was pleased with how his depleted side coped. Gabe Haskins, Shawn Myers, Stuart Thomson and Chris Pearce all played the full 40 minutes while Alif Bland only sat out for 1:25 due to foul trouble.

Lloyd said: “We did a great job considering we were missing our two leading scorers and by playing hard we managed to stay with them throughout. There’s been some really good performances of late, against Newcastle and Leicester, but it was tough with Jerome (Gumbs) being ill and Chez (Marks) family bereavement and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

Bland opened the game with a block on Chavis Holmes but Cheshire‘s offence was slow to get going and it was the home side who rushed out to a 7-2 start. However, Haskins scored seven points including a triple to cap a 12-0 run to force Raftopoulos into a time-out. His side responded with the final six points of the quarter but they still trailed 14-13.

The lead crept back up to seven points as Bland took his tally to 11 points early on in the second before Surrey compiled a pivotal 17-1 tear to take control. Frank Holmes added six points during the run to join Travis on 10 points at half-time where they led 38-32 after a deep three from Haskins ending the second quarter scoring.

When play resumed, Surrey strenghtened their grip on the game with the first ten points of the third before Pearce ended Cheshire’s baron start to the second half with a 3-pointer almost three and a minutes into the quarter. Albert Margai and Thomson traded scores from beyond the arc as the gap peaked at 17 points before the ‘Nix rallied for a 10-2 run which contained a spectacular tip-in dunk from Myers from a missed free throw from Thomson. A late steal and dunk from Pearce gave Cheshire hope of victory as they were down 63-54 heading into the final quarter.

Julius Joseph took over at the start of the fourth with a personal 9-2  run to take his points tally to 20 as the hosts increased their lead to 18 points for the first time. Once again, Cheshire continued to battle and gradually begin to reduce their arrears with Thomson beginning to get hot from long range. The former Worcester and Manchester forward struck twice from downtown in a 10-2 burst for the visitors to haul Cheshire to within 6 points at 82-76 with 1:34 left. It was as close as they were to get as Surrey ran down the clock before ending the game with 3/4 successful free throws to seal the victory.

Frank Holmes and namesake Travis top scored for Surrey with 22 points each while Joseph contributed a vital 20 point haul in just over 21 minutes of action off the bench. Chavis Holmes dished out 12 assists with Raftopoulos happy with how his point guards ‘controlled the game’. Haskins was the orchestrator for Phoenix and collected 20 points via a number of well executed shots. Bland (19pts/13rbs) and Myers (14pts/13rbs) contributed double-doubles while Thomson made 4-8 from 3-PT range on his way to 16 points.

The teams meet twice again this month in a spell Creon has targeted as a chance to push for a top four finish.

Raftopoulos said: “We’ve targeted this mini-series as important to push on for the top four spot. The way the system is, I don’t mind what position we finish in as long as we have momentum going into he play-offs and hopefully we can kick on now Travis (Holmes) is getting back in the flow of things.”

NEXT UP: HEAT– @ Newcastle 08/03/13; v Mersey 10/03/13; v Leicester 16/03/13. PHOENIX– v Worcester 10/03/13; @ Sheffield 15/03/13; v Surrey 17/03/13.

Surrey should beat Mersey but face a tough trip to Newcastle beforehand before hosting the league leaders in 2 weeks time. 1 win in 3 most likely. Cheshire have a tough run-in but four of their last six games are at home and that could be key to getting into the play-offs. If they get Marks and Gumbs back soon then they could surprise the Wolves or Heat at home whilst travelling to Sheffield for a massive game. Again, I win in 3 is probably most likely.

There were only three other games in the league this weekend with Newcastle kicking off the action on Friday with an emphatic 100-57 win on the road against Mersey to tie Leicester on points. On Sunday, Glasgow  claimed outright third place with an 88-66 win over Durham, who saw their play-off hopes fade. The final game was a key play-off clash and London Lions came out the victors beating Trophy finalists Sheffield, 86-78 to move six points clear of the Sharks. Rod Brown made an impressive debut for the London side with 15 points and nine assists following his recent move from the Plymouth Raiders.

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.