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.

Advertisements

February Statistical Review in the BBL

35 games played. 16 victories on the road. 2 unbeaten teams. Two 40 point hauls. A double-OT thriller and a BBL Trophy semi-final.

The Molten BBL Coach of the Month award was given to Paul James after guiding his Worcester Wolves side to 5th in the league after six wins from six in FebruaryWorcester have boosted their top four hopes with five straight wins in the league and also progressed to the last four of the BBL Trophy. The 94-88 victory in Newcastle was their stand-out win but the Wolves have also completed double-duty for the last two weekends in which a victory was achieved after two additional periods against the London Lions. Alex Owumi (16p/10r/8a) and Carlos Fernandez (14p/10r/7a) both came close to achieving the rare feat in the BBL of a triple-double.

Rob Paternostro came close to winning the award for the second month running as the Leicester Riders also went 6-0 in February to maintain their place at the top of the standings. The Riders set up a semi-final clash with Worcester after going to Guildford to beat Surrey Heat 82-66. The league leaders’ defence continues to make a difference and Leicester managed to hold their opponents to an average of 60 points a game during the month and winning by 14.1 points on average.

At the other end of the spectrum, Surrey are in a poor run of form having slipped to sixth place in the league after such a bright start with Creon Raftopoulos‘ men losing all four league games this month. Mersey Tigers also suffered defeat in every league game in February as their quest for a first victory drags on. Glasgow had enjoyed a five game winning streak before falling to a 76-72 defeat at home to Leicester but are still level on points with Plymouth. The play-off race continues with London, Sheffield, Manchester, Cheshire and Durham all battling it out for the seventh and eighth spots. Phoenix and the Wildcats both went 1-5 for February while the Lions picked up 8 points from seven games, the Giants won two from five and Sheffield maintained 8th place with a 2-1 record for the month whilst opening up a 14 point lead in their Trophy semi-final against Cheshire.

Newcastle Eagles’ Kareem Maddox claimed the Molten BBL Player of the Month for the second time after a dominant February, averaging 21.6 points per game along with 13 rebounds per game. The BBL rookie tied his season-high points tally with 29 against the Cheshire Phoenix and ended the month with a monster double-double of 26 points and 20 rebounds whilst adding four assists, three steals and four blocks to an incredible stat-line. Maddox is having a stellar season with the Eagles and the American currently averages 15.8ppg (20th) and 10.2rpg (2nd) but is yet to score from beyond the arc this season.

Charles Smith ran his team-mate close with an impressive month averaging 32.2 ppg in four games with a total of 128 points. The league veteran had a BBL season-high 49 points against Durham at the beginning of the month on 8-10 shooting from downtown whilst collecting 16 boards to complete a memorable performance. Smith went 100% from the free throw line in the four games and has now gone 28/28 from the foul line over his last 13 games. The Eagles‘ forward failed to connect from beyond the arc against Plymouth (0-3) but managed to net a total of 19 with a 52% success rate. Most recently, Smith carried Newcastle to a win in Surrey with a 33 point haul and 10 rebounds. Joe Chapman dished out 10+ assists in three games over January/February and leads the league in that category with an average of 7.6.

Michael Ojo was the other player in February to have a 40 point game in his outing against Cheshire and followed that outstanding performance with 61 points in his next two games against Glasgow and Surrey on his way to averaging 29.2 points per game during the month. The Raiders‘ guard also nailed all 27 of his free throw attempts and has now made 42 of his last 43 from the charity stripe. Chez Marks has dropped to second in the league scoring charts but still had an impressive month scoring 31 points on two occasions including helping the ‘Nix to a vital win against the defending champions in Newcastle.

Sunday’s action in the BBL

RIDERS GROUND OUT WIN IN GLASGOW AS NEWCASTLE KEEP UP THE PRESSURE & LIONS AND WOLVES DO DOUBLE DUTY FOR THE WEEKEND

Sunday 24th February

Leicester Riders recovered from a slow start to defeat Glasgow 76-72 on the road to stay top of the league standings while Newcastle Eagles enjoyed a 90-78 success in Guildford over the Surrey Heat (full report to follow).

Pavol Losonsky led the Riders‘ charge with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists as Leicester made it EIGHT straight victories whilst ending the winning run of the Rocks. Sterling Davis’ men led 24-15 at the end of the opening quarter but succumbed to the impressive defence of the visitors and Glasgow now drop back to fifth in the table.

The teams were tied at 11 after a sluggish start before Glasgow took control with an 11-2 close over the final three minutes to lead by nine. Gareth Murray sparked a 7-2 burst for the home side with five points in quick succession and the advantage had peaked at THIRTEEN points. However, this time it was the visitors’ turn to put together a run at the end of the quarter as an 11-3 spell helped cut the gap to 41-36 at the break.

When play resumed, the Rocks re-established their double digit lead but were then forced into a baron spell for nearly four minutes as the Riders reduced their arrears to a single point as Zaire Taylor capped a 9-0 run with a triple. Leicester finally took the lead- for the first time since mid-way through the first- on the buzzer as they turned defence into defence with a block from Drew Sullivan at one end transpired into an Anthony Rowe basket at the other.

EJ Harrison completed a three point play early with the first score in the fourth to restore the Rocks‘ advantage but that was to be their last lead of the contest as an 8-2 response from the Riders put them up by six. Spurred on by the Emirates crowd, Glasgow pulled themselves to within a point but crucially missed their final SEVEN shots from the field as Leicester could afford three spurned free throw attempts before Losonsky nailed two successfully to clinch an ELEVENTH straight win in all competitions.

STAT: Leicester have now won their last three league games in Glasgow.

Worcester Wolves capitalised on Surrey‘s loss to leapfrog the Heat in the table and keep alive their top four chances after beating Durham 83-79 on the road. The visitors gained the advantage with a strong spell after the half-time interval before holding off a final quarter fightback from the Wildcats. Alex Owumi led all scorers with 24 points while Mike Baldarelli had 23 for Durham and Andrew Keister contributed a 22p-14r double-double.

STAT: Carlos Fernandez came close to a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and SEVEN assists in 40 minutes.

London Lions also recorded their second win of the weekend after an 81-64 triumph at home to play-off rivals Manchester. The tip was delayed by 90 minutes as the Giants arrived late due to traffic. The Lions weren’t affected by the wait as they raced into an early 29-17 lead and never looked back. Adrien Sturt had a season-high 31 point haul for the hosts while the visiting Giants were led by a 24p-12r double-double from Ben Eaves, who also fired in four 3-pointers.

In the BBL Trophy, Sheffield opened up a 14 point advantage with a 74-60 victory in Cheshire to take into the second leg of their semi-final clash. A domiant 26-12 third quarter from the Sharks proved the difference as they took a step closer to a first major final since 2011. Mike Tuck was in inspired form for his side and led from the front with a huge 16p-19r double-double while Micah Williams added 16 points to celebrate his birthday with a win.

The finalists will become clear next week as the Sharks and Phoenix meet in the second leg while Leicester and Worcester do battle in successive nights in their semi-final. Mersey look for a first win as they entertain Newcastle while on Sunday, Surrey aim to return to winning ways when they host Cheshire and Glasgow play host to the Wildcats.

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):