Eagles and Flyers take local derbies, Riders and Gladiators post big wins


Newcastle Eagles 84-70 B Braun Sheffield Sharks (21-21, 22-20, 15-19, 26-10)
Eagles – Johnson 24, Hamlet 19, Mockford 13; Sharks – Nelson 20, Nichols 19, Ramsey 11

Plymouth City Patriots 93-108 Bristol Flyers (13-30, 24-29, 27-23, 29-26)
Patriots – Hassan 32, Hawthorne 12, Daniels 11; Flyers – King 30, Bell 18, Delpeche 14

Leicester Riders 99-77 Surrey Scorchers (23-17, 28-24, 28-21, 20-15)
Riders – Loving 21, Jackson 20, Mackenzie 16; Scorchers – Wang 13, Ray 13, Jacdonmi 11

Manchester Giants 73-91 Caledonia Gladiators (31-20, 11-28, 15-16 16-27)
Giants – Williams 19, Fletcher 13, Lee 13; Gladiators – Tape 19, Bailey 18, Durham 15

A close battle in the north-east rivalry between Newcastle Eagles and the B Braun Sheffield Sharks headlined a four-game slate in the BBL, with the home team winning by 14 points when it was all said and done. 

Kyle Johnson led the way for the Eagles with 24 points in a close affair, but it was teammate Ben Mockford’s late surge that tipped the balance in their favour, despite 20 points from Sheffield’s Sa’eed Nelson.

At the other end of the country, the south-west collision between Plymouth City Patriots and the Bristol Flyers went the way of the visitors 108-93.

Bristol couldn’t stop Rashad Hassan, who had 32 points for Plymouth, but the Flyers’ VJ King almost matched him with 30 of his own. The difference was King’s supporting cast, who managed to slow the home team enough to take the win on the road.

Meanwhile, the Leicester Riders recovered from the BBL Cup Final last week and took out their frustrations on the Surrey Scorchers, with Marc Loving leading the way with 21 points.

And on the Sky Sports broadcast, the Caledonia Gladiators had a great come-from-behind victory over the at-home Manchester Giants, who were missing a few players due to injury.

While Dirk Williams did his best for Manchester, Caledonia’s Patrick Tape scored 19 points to lead a balanced attack for the Gladiators, who took a 91-73 victory. 

Tape spoke to Drew Lasker after the game and said they were feeling confident going into the halftime locker room: “We went on a run and we went in the break playing with confidence.

“They came out hot, and scored 31 in the first quarter… We stayed consistent and got the win. From the jump, my teammates gave me the ball in good positions.”

The Newcastle Eagles welcomed the B Braun Sheffield Sharks to Vertu Motors Arena, where both teams battled for a spot in the playoffs.

Sa’eed Nelson paced the visitors early. His attacks to the basket inspired his Sharks teammates to get to the free throw line. It put the Eagles over the limit early in team fouls, with Darius Defoe and Hasahn French being hit with two each. 

The free throw difference created a gap heading into the final two minutes of the first quarter, but Newcastle kept attacking, including a tough layup from Javion Hamlet, who slithered and eurostepped into the lane for a good basket and a foul.

The close contest continued into the second quarter and was exemplified by back-to-back threes from each team. 

Nelson found Tyrn Flowers at the top of the perimeter for an open shot, which he nailed for the Sharks. But on the other end, Hamlet missed a shot and grabbed his own rebound to find Kyle Johnson in the corner for a successful attempt of his own.

Just two points separated the sides going into the locker room and it continued to be a rockfight for points, with both teams looking for big in the paint, such as Sheffield’s Bennet Koch and Newcastle’s French.

It was Kipper Nichols for the Sharks and Justin Gordon for the Eagles, however, who kept the scoring going with tough mid-rangers and physical scores in the paint, including Gordon’s drive at Jordan Ratinho for an off-the-backboard runner.

Newcastle’s Ben Mockford edged the gap open to three points when he caught the ball from David Cohn and attacked the top of the key to pull up and hit a mid-range two.

It was Mockford’s play that helped opened the lead even further, when he ran pick-and-roll with Defoe, and found the big man in the same position he hit his own shot on the previous play. Defoe rose up and sunk the same shot he’s scored hundreds of times in the BBL during the past 19 years.

The Eagles opened up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, at which point, the defensive pressure increased. 

The Sharks grabbed an offensive rebound but couldn’t get an easy shot, when it finally fell to Gordon on the Eagles. Mockford leaked out and stood all alone on Sheffield’s three-point line to push the gap to 13 with a minute to go, and put himself into double figures for the game.

Mockford followed it up with another three to put the nail in Sheffield’s coffin. 

The win pulled them to within two wins for the Sharks, with plenty of games left in the season to chase down the final playoff spot.

The south-west derby saw the Bristol Flyers get out to an early lead in Plymouth against the City Patriots thanks to a perfect run of possessions.

Plymouth’s Rashad Hassan kept his team within reach at the Pavilions by scoring his team’s opening seven points, including a big breakaway dunk that rewarded the home crowd.

Mike Miller finally missed a shot for Bristol but Malcolm Delpeche got the offensive rebound and put it back up for a successful trip down the court.

An up-and-down six minutes was ultimately stopped by Patriots coach Paul James, who called a timeout with his team 10 points down.

The break also gave the Flyers some time to sharpen up on both ends. And for a team that is battling for the top spot in the league, they came out firing. 

Jelani Watson-Gayle has been huge for Bristol this year, and opened the second quarter with a three off a Brandon Mahan assist, which opened the gap up to 20.

But the Flyers were making their biggest impact on defence. Steals from Miller, Watson-Gayle and Tevin Olison kept the Patriots’ scoring low and the lead was pushed to 22 points before halftime, thanks to a high-flying put-back offensive rebound dunk in transition for the in-form Thomas Bell III.

Bristol retained the big gap throughout the third quarter, but Plymouth wasn’t letting it grow, thanks to a strong effort on both ends from the home side. 

It was 15-15 after five minutes of the third when an out-of-timeout pick and roll for Plymouth between Ty Gadsden and Hassan found the big man beneath the basket for two points.

The Flyers hit on a couple of consecutive trips down the court, thanks to a pair of Bell free throws, and then he got loose again for a tougher basket after Leslee Smith stole the ball and found his teammate.

The loud Plymouth crowd stayed with their team, and the Patriots closed the gap to 18 with four minutes to go.

It was Delpeche who pushed it back up to 20 with a hook shot that he’s turned into a patented move this season.

The Flyers slowed down the offence to maintain a comfortable gap as the Bristol team moved to 17-6 on the season, while the Patriots dropped to 8-12.

After missing out on a win at the BBL Cup Final last week, the Leicester Riders were in no mood to lick their wounds as the Surrey Scorchers arrived at Morningside Arena.

However, the visitors were excited to have spiritual leader Tayo Ogedengbe back from a long injury. He started on the bench, but his starting five got a slim lead early. 

A ‘Smitty’ in the lane by Padiet Wang impressed the opponents’ supporters – he hesitated after getting past a first defender, half-turned away from the basket that lulled the defence into a false sense of a job well-done, then put the jets on for an open dunk.

Leicester nosed in front after Zach Jackson followed his own big three from Zach Jackson with a dunk that gave the home team a mini-run to pull ahead.

The Riders are the most efficient three-point shooting team in the league – partly due to the players’ abilities, but they benefit from a system that finds shooters in the corners regularly.  This, plus good defence, created a bit of separation between the two sides in the second quarter.

Darien Nelson-Henry blocked Luke Busumbru’s shot with three minutes to go, which found its way to Jackson for Leicester. He pushed it ahead to Patrick Whelan, who found Kimbal MacKenzie in the left-hand corner for his first three of the game and a 12-point gap. 

The lead didn’t change much until Mackenzie was fouled by Surrey’s Andrew Lawrence. The tough point guard sunk two free throws, but inspired a series of plays that saw his team get to the free throw line.

Patrick Whelan hit two of two a possession later, then Marc Loving was the beneficiary of Carrington Love getting an offensive rebound and passing to the scoring forward beneath the basket, who got the layup and the free throw to go for an 18-point lead.

The Scorchers were still playing inspired basketball, when Ryan Martin grabbed a defensive rebound and got it to Wang, who barely crossed half court before spotting Shakem Johnson running down the lane.

It looked like the pass was too late, but Johnson caught the ball close to the rim and arched his body to hammer it home. At the end of the third quarter, however, his team was still down 17. 

Loving is on a historic streak of hitting free throws this season for the Riders, and it was two more makes in the fourth, followed by a Jackson drive to the rim, that pushed the gap to 20 points with less than four minutes to go.

This lead was maintained, and the Riders eventually won out: 99-77.

Sky Sports broadcasted the Caledonia Gladiators’ trip south from Glasgow to face off with the Manchester Giants at the National Basketball Performance Centre.

The home team had a rowdy house for the nationally televised game, which fired the Giants up into an early lead. 

Manchester has looked so much better since William Lee returned from injury a few weeks ago, and he got six points in the first five minutes. 

Rahmon Fletcher got in on the action to shake his defender loose and hit an entertaining floater from the wing off the backboard, legs splayed for a dramatic display of athleticism.

But Dirk Williams continued to be the offensive force for Manchester. A beautiful play saw him curl around a screen at the top of the key to receive a floating pass from Lee and make a layup through plenty of contact – kissing his biceps after the fact to show his strength.

The Gladiators weren’t letting the Giants’ lead get too big, and had to come up with some creative ways to stay close. 

Their 6ft 10in centre Patrick Tape is not known for taking too many threes – having shot just six in the BBL Championship coming into the game – but he showed confidence in pulling up for a clean three to cut the gap to less than double digits.

He followed this with a big block on the other end of the court, which unleashed Princeton Onwas, who found Fraser Malcolm for a transition layup.

The run continued with a Tape dunk and a David Sloan layup, but it was Jonny Bunyan who completed the comeback from 18 points down. His three in the corner for Caledonia gave the visitors a one-point lead with two minutes to go in the half.

Despite Manchester calling a timeout, it felt like Bunyan didn’t step away from that corner on the court, as he received the ball again in that same spot to get another three, which was followed by a pair of Tape hookshots to push the new lead to eight.

Manchester only had eight players available, and it felt like the energy levels of those who played big minutes started to wane, especially when a rebound bounced over several of the Giants’ heads.

Jeremiah Bailey can be seen as a type of bellwether for the Gladiators – when he plays well, Caledonia usually matches him. His four points early in the third quarter helped his team maintain the slim lead. 

This was in spite of Manchester’s Williams, Fletcher and Lee doing their level best to draw alongside. A range of offence – including free throws, long twos and contested layups, respectively – kept them within reach but not quite over the line.

Bailey kept going and pushed the gap to seven points when he was credited with a block and found himself running down an open floor for a good layup.

The Gladiators opened up the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead, but it was clear the Giants had heavy legs. 

Missed shots and fumbled offence for Manchester weren’t helped by great defence from Caledonia, and before you knew it, a pair of free throws from Bailey pushed the Scotch lead to 20.

A handful of collisions between Manchester players was indicative of the Giants’ melting energy levels, but Caledonia were methodical in running sets that led to another Tape hookshot off Bailey’s assist.

The visitors finished off the win with a handful of free throws and moved to 10-10 on the season.

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