Friday night wins for Rocks, Sharks and Phoenix
Friday night in the BBL Championship saw the Glasgow Rocks maintain their chase of the top four, while the One Health Sharks Sheffield leapfrogged the London Lions into the playoff spots, the latter losing to the Cheshire Phoenix who thereby strengthened their position in the top eight.
The Phoenix won for the first time in three games and remain seventh after beating the Lions 87-88 with a last gasp basket. The Lions have now lost five in a row, including four straight home outings after previously being unbeaten at home in two months. The Phoenix were led by 22 points from Alif Bland with Jerome Gumbs contributing 20 points and 8 rebounds. Tayo Ogedengbe led all scorers with 28 points and 9 rebounds.
The Phoenix started and finished the game strongly, with a fourth quarter comeback proving decisive. But the Lions led 64-58 heading into the final two minutes and scored the opening two baskets of the fourth to take a double-digit lead - the only one either side held all game. The Phoenix responded with a 9-1 run with Gumbs scoring 5 to make it a one possession game at 69-67; they then tied the game at 74 on a Chez Marks three-pointer, and when he hit another one less than a minute later they led 75-77.
Marks added a pair of free-throws to make that a 10-1 run and a 14 point swing in a little over four minutes; despite the Lions hitting back, they held an 84-86 lead heading into the last two minutes. The lead changed hands when Ogedengbe made it 87-86 with a minute to play and it looked as though Cheshire's efforts had been in vain; but after Sturt missed a three-pointer, Marks grabbed the rebound and, on the resulting offence, they found Gabriele Haskins for the winning basket with just 6 seconds to play.
Elsewhere, the Glasgow Rocks remain on the fringes of the top four in the BBL Championship after an 82-92 road win at the Manchester Giants. For the Giants, it is their first home defeat in three, with their last defeat coming in November, also to the Rocks. The victors were led by player/coach Sterling Davis with 22 points, while Donald Robinson had 20 and Gareth Murray added 17 points and 9 rebounds.
The Rocks used a strong second half performance after the Giants led through much of the first.The first half was tight, and the Giants held a 48-46 lead at the break after a number of lead changes in the second quarter. The third quarter started in a similar fashion as Sterling Davis's triple gave the Rocks the lead back before Callum Jones responded and the teams ended up tied at 56 midway through. They were tied again at 58 before the Rocks made a crucial run: in a minute and a half they scored 8 points in a row, with Robinson scoring 5 of those and capping the run with a triple, to force the hosts into a timeout at 58-66 with a little over two minutes to play. Aliu's three-pointer, against his former club, in the last 20 seconds made the score 63-67 and set up a tense final period.
The Giants came close early in the fourth as Watts hit a three-pointer and Bailey added another one soon after to make the score 69-71. But EJ Harrison kept the Rocks ticking over, scoring 5 in a row as a triple made it 73-78 with five minutes to play. And that run became a 12-0 surge to settle the game as they held their hosts scoreless for three and a half minutes with 4 points each from Davis and Robinson, and a Fantazia triple giving the Rocks a double-figure lead at 73-87 with three minutes to play.
Finally, the One Health Sharks Sheffield jumped into the playoff spots with a comprehensive 64-99 defeat of the Mersey Tigers in the North West; they have now notched back-to-back wins and it's their first road win in three. Demetrius Jemison led the scoring with 22 points, supported by BJ Holmes who scored 16 and added 6 assists.
The Sharks never trailed after a solid start saw them score the first 4 points through Jemison and Micah Williams, holding their hosts scoreless for two minutes. An 8-0 burst in the space of 45 seconds soon afterwards made the score 3-11 as Holmes scored all of those points, capping the run with a three-pointer. Jemison scored again to push the lead through double-figures and, from 5-13, the visitors scored another 8 in a row, sparked by a Williams triple. The lead was over 20 before the first quarter was done as Mike Tuck scored 4 points, by which time they had held the Tigers scoreless for a further three minutes for a score of 5-25 that became 11-32 by the end of the quarter.
They were never threatened thereafter, pushing the lead through 30 in the third quarter and seeing it peak at 46-85 on George Brownell's basket in the fourth.