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.

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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.

Friday Night Action in the BBL

PLYMOUTH AND WORCESTER KEEP UP PRESS FOR TOP FOUR WHILE LONDON AND MANCHESTER BOOST PLAY-OFF HOPES

Friday 22nd February 2013

Plymouth Raiders left it late to deny Durham a second win in Devon this season with a 104-100 victory in a topsy-turvy encounter. Gavin Love’s men move back level on points with the Glasgow Rocks to remain as outside contenders for the title.

Michael Ojo top scored for the home side with 29 points but Andrew Lasker stole the show with an impressive stat-line of 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists as well as four steals. Plymouth led by as many as nine points early on but some clinical 3-point shooting from the Wildcats kept them in touch and they trailed by four at the end of the first at 29-25.

In the second, Paul Elderkin topped and tailed a 16-2 tear with a triple as the visitors took the lead at 44-35. Plymouth battled back after that poor spell but still found themselves 55-50 behind as they reached half-time. When play resumed, the Raiders embarked on an 11-2 run to regain the lead at 64-60.

The momentum was with the home side and Javarris Barnett fired in two scores from long range to help give Plymouth an 87-77 advantage to take into the final quarter. However, back came Durham as they opened the fourth with 13 unanswered points to take the lead and keep their opponents scoreless for almost four minutes.

Ojo stopped the rot with a pair of free throws but Durham still looked in control with 3:25 remaining as they led 100-96. Plymouth stepped up their defensive efforts with Andreas Schreiber denying Andrew Keister at one end to allow Lasker to tie the game at the other with just under a minute left. The 30 year-old then put the Raiders in front and when Brad Guinane missed from beyond the arc, Ojo held his nerve to knock down another pair of free throws to seal the win.

Plymouth were deadly from the foul line as they made 23 of their 25 attempts with Ojo and Lasker leading the way with a perfect 6/6. The Wildcats missed their final seven shots including four from 3-point range during a baron final three minutes although they still finished with an overall 62% shooting accuracy. Keister top scored with 26 points but leaked six turnovers while Elderkin and Mike Baldarelli added 19 points each with a combined 9/13 from long range.

STAT: With 21 points and 11 rebounds it was Lasker‘s third double-double in the league this season.

Manchester Giants (9-17) boosted their play-off hopes with an 94-78 victory over their rivals Cheshire (9-17). Devan Bailey put in an outstanding performance with 22 points on 9-10 shooting including 4/4 from 3-PT range whilst grabbing six boards, providing five assists and earning two steals. Chez Marks and Alif Bland led the visitors with 21 points each in the defeat.

London Lions (10-16) stole a march in the play-off race to move clear in seventh after a comfortable 78-58 win on the road against the Mersey Tigers (0-24). Orlan Jackman had a game-high 16 points for the visitors while the Tigers were led by a 15 point haul from Joshua Lockett. The tip-off was delayed by 45 minutes due to the late arrival of the London side in Merseyside.

STAT: Nathan Schall made his debut for the Mersey Tigers following his move from Manchester.

The final game saw the Worcester Wolves (14-9) defeat Surrey Heat (14-8) 99-81 to move level on points despite being a place below in the standings. Kai Williams was hot early on from downtown and finished with 24 points to lead the Wolves amongst a number of standout performances.

Alex Owumi came close to a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and EIGHT assists while Stanley Ocitti also bagged a 16p-10r double-doubleand Aruras Masiulis had 11 points, 12 rebounds and SEVEN blocks in the win. Sam Cricelli top scored for the visiting Heat with 22 points as Surrey fell to their sixth loss in seven games in all competitions.

Next up for Creon Raftopoulos’ men is a visit from the Newcastle Eagles in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday. Also in action are the Glasgow Rocks as they play host to the league leaders Leicester Riders in what promises to be an entertaining game. London entertain Manchester in a battle for the play-offs clash; Worcester travel to Durham to take on the Wildcats and Sheffield Sharks play Cheshire in the first leg of the BBL Trophy semi-final.

 

Weekend round-up in the BBL

DOUBLE DUTY FOR LEICESTER & WORCESTER WHILE NEWCASTLE LOSE GROUND IN THE TITLE RACE

Friday 15th February

Cheshire Phoenix pulled off a shock 94-92 victory in Newcastle as the Eagles lost ground in the title race. Chez Marks sealed the win on the buzzer to finish with a game-high 31 points while Jerome Gumbs added a further 28. Charles Smith and Kareem Maddox had a combined 59 points for the hosts as they saw their opponents wipe out a six point deficit late on to triumph. Sheffield continued their push to strenghten their position in the play-off places with a 95-87 win against Manchester. Mike Tuck had a 22-13 double-double for the Sharks as they used a strong second quarter as a platform for victory. The final game on Friday saw Worcester complete an emphatic 119-64 demolition of the Mersey Tigers. The Wolves made 20/33 from 3-PT range and enjoyed 63% from the field. Six players reached double-figures for the home side with Stanley Ocitti top scoring with 18 points while Gael Hulsen had a team-high 15 for the Tigers.

Saturday 16th February

Leicester capitalised on their main rivals’ surprise defeat 24 hours earlier with an 84-59 success at home to Manchester, who fell further behind in the race for the play-offs. The Riders continued to live up to their reputation as the best defensive side in the league by holding the Giants to 16 points and less in each of the four quarters. Drew Sullivan had a game-high 25 points with nine of those coming from the free throw line whilst providing six assists. Ben Eaves had a 15-10 double-double for the visitors but was Manchester‘s only scorer in double figures. Worcester recorded their second victory in as many days but needed two periods of overtime to win 98-91 against London Lions. The visiting Lions overturned an ELEVEN point deficit in the final quarter to force overtime and took the game to a second period of additional time before losing that 12-5. Ocitti top scored for the Wolves again with 22 points, a feat matched by Orlan Jackman for London. The final game saw Plymouth move clear of Surrey with a 91-89 win against the Heat. The Raiders were perfect from the foul line and were led by yet another high-scoring performance from Michael Ojo, who poured in 31 points. Despite having not replaced Martelle McLemore, Surrey competed well and were forced to rely on five main guys to produce big minutes with Sam Cricelli leading the way with a 26 points personal. Matt Schneck sealed the win with a pair of free throws late on to finish with a double-double of 10 points and 16 rebounds.

Sunday 17th February

Newcastle bounced back from their defeat to Cheshire with a 96-79 win in Plymouth although Leicester continued their winning streak with a hard-fought 69-60 success against the team who beat the Eagles on Friday. Smith top scored again with 26 points and 12 rebounds while Maddox also contributed a 20-14 double-double to help Newcastle keep up the pressure on their main rivals. Leicester were restricted to EIGHT second quarter points and a woeful 1/14 from 3-point range but still managed to come out with the win to move clear at the top. A 14-2 run in the final quarter proved pivotal as the Riders made it SEVEN straight wins in the league. Pavol Losonsky led all scorers with a 24 point haul while Jerome Gumbs played the full 40 minutes and posted 16 points to lead the ‘NixSterling Davis led by example with 30 points to guide his Glasgow Rocks side to a 99-73 win in Durham to cement third place in the table with their SEVENTH win in a row.

Check-out the highlights of Newcastle‘s loss at home to Cheshire (BBL):

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.