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.

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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.

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):

Sunday round-up in the BBL

RIDERS BACK ON TOP; GLASGOW BREAK INTO TOP 3 & DURHAM BOOST PLAY-OFF CHANCES

Leicester Riders moved back level on points with Newcastle at the top of the table with a 72-51 win at home to the Sheffield Sharks. Drew Sullivan led the way with a game-high 21 points while Olu Babalola had 13 for the visitors, who were restricted to shooting a below-par 32% from the field. Sheffield had an early four point lead but this was cancelled out when Sullivan slammed the ball home to tie the game at 16 at the end of the first. A 7-0 run at the latter stages of the second, consisting of four points from Pavol Losonsky and a three point play from Jamell Anderson, helped the Riders into a 32-28 advantage at the interval. The home side increased their defensive efforts in the second half as they contained the Sharks to just 23 further points to complete a routine victory in a game to be televised on Sky Sports.

Glasgow Rocks made third place their own with a 94-84 victory over Plymouth which secured the head-to-head series against their rivals. The home side did the damage in the second quarter when they outscored their opponents 30-18 and the Raiders struggled to get back in the game. Michael Ojo continued his fine run of form with a 30 point haul but 24 points from Donald Robinson and a further 20 from player-coach Sterling Davis helped the Rocks to their sixth consecutive win. Plymouth did close the gap to five points in the fourth quarter but a baron spell of no points in four minutes proved costly as they now lie in fifth position.

Durham Wildcats joined a host of teams on 16 points after an 89-84 success at home to the London Lions. Keith Page was the star for the hosts with a 29 point haul which included 8/9 from the FT line while Mike Baldarelli and Brad Guinane contributed 19 and 15 points respectively. After a tight first ten minutes, the home side began to establish their authority and a 12-4 burst towards the end of the third gave them a 71-60 advantage to take into the fourth. The lead peaked at 16 points at 80-64 before the visiting Lions roared back into life with a 15-1 tear capped by a Tayo Ogedengbe dunk. Page sealed the win with four free throws down the stretch to give his side their eighth win of the season and hope of making the play-offs.

Here is the current table in the BBL Championship: