Plymouth Raiders drew first blood in the BBL Trophy final as they won 97-88 against visitors Newcastle Eagles.
Gavin Love’s team will take that nine point lead to the north east for the second – and decisive – leg on Friday, and the Raiders’ coach was a happy man: “It was a great first half of Trophy tie between to good teams going hard! We played good well and are looking forward to Friday night!”
In a thrilling game the Raiders had the final say with a superb run, which saw them overturn a 67-73 early in the fourth quarter to eventually hold Newcastle to just four points over the last 3.30 minutes of the match.
Both BBL Championship leaders Eagles and Raiders had success in their regular season match-ups on Friday night.
The Eagles look like champions-elect and took another step towards their goal with an 87-79 win over Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders in the north-east.
The Riders had overcome a big early deficit to lead 77-72 with less than five minutes to play, but Newcastle showed all their experience to rattle off the next 11 points, with Joe Chapman and Fab Flournoy keeping their cool from the free throw line to seal the victory.
Raiders kept their alive their hopes of the BBL title by holding off the fast charging Cheshire Jets 109-105 in Devon. Leading 83-68 after three quarters the home side seemed to be more affected by a 20 minute delay for a new backboard after mascot ‘Foxy’ shattered it. Jets pulled to within two at 98-96 on a Bill Cole three before Plymouth recovered with an Anthony Rowe three and free throws by Jeremy Bell and Lehmon Colbert to see out the win.
Friday also saw Guildford Heat secured a valuable road win in their fight for a play-off berth with an 83-75 victory at Mersey Tigers.
Martelle McLemore and Tayo Ogedengbe led the way with 16 points as an accomplished fourth quarter performance held off the Tigers, who led by 20 points by Myles Hesson.
Sunday saw One Health Sharks Sheffield completed the season sweep over Prestige Homes MK Lions with a 92-84 road victory. Ryan Patton and Olu Babalola did most of the damage with 28 and 27 points respectively to see the Sharks through.
Riders bounced back from Friday’s loss with a comfortable 76-56 victory at Glasgow Rocks. Rob Paternostro’s team were led by the impressive duo of Ayron Hardy and Cameron Rundles, who scored 22 and 21 points respectively. Leicester led by ten entering the fourth quarter and doubled their advantage to ease home.
Jets were another team to show some bouncebackability as they kept up their pursuit of a play-off spot and won bragging rights in the north-west with an exciting 84-79 victory over Mersey Tigers.