Zaire Taylor stole the headlines on Sunday as he not only put in one of the individual performances of the season, but also ended the Play-Off hopes of the current champions.
Last season, Zaire Taylor helped Worcester Wolves to the Play-Off title, earning himself MVP honours in the final.
On Sunday, he was a one-man wrecking crew, torching his former team for 41 points as the Lions crushed the Wolves, 106-67.
Taylor barely missed a shot in the first half, scoring 26 points by the break, just four shy of his season high, which he subsequently passed midway in third quarter.
Taylor was supported by 22 points from Drew Sullivan, who was the team’s leading scorer in Friday’s 80-75 win at Worcester, which gave the Lions a commanding 186-142 aggregate win.
“He had the hot hand today and we’re delighted for him,” said Lions’ coach Vince Macaulay.
“He was the MVP of the Play-Offs last year and the team he was playing today was the champions, so it was a big day for him.”
Macaulay added, “The team are playing at the level I want them to play, and at the level I believed all along they could play.”
“With Rod Brown back, we’ve finally put the team on the floor that we want.
“Everyone is very focused and they understand that whatever happened in the league has happened and now it’s just all about five games.”
That wasn’t the only big result of the weekend as the Leicester Riders’ season also ended early following their 164-159 defeat to Sheffield Sharks.
The Sharks gave themselves a great chance of progression following a 79-68 victory in the first leg, thanks in part to Mike Cook (25) and Mike Tuck (20) combining for 45 points.
It left the Riders needing to win by 12 points in the return fixture. After a tremendous battle between the two teams, the Riders looked to have achieved that in the final minute, only for Sharks’ Nick Lewis to tip in a missed shot to bring the aggregate scores level and force overtime.
The extra period belonged to the Sharks and once BJ Holmes (team high 23 points) hit a couple of three-pointers, there was no way back for the Riders.
The Sharks will face Newcastle Eagles in the next round after Fab Flournoy’s side enjoyed a comfortable 176-144 aggregate win over Bristol Flyers.
The damage was done in the first leg as the Eagles secured an 84-64 win down in Bristol and the following night, the job was completed with a 92-80 win at Sport Central, Scott Martin leading the way with 22 points.
“It was always going to be a tough trip,” said Flournoy.
“Doing 600 miles in a bus and playing two games of basketball in a 30-hour period is not ideal.
“But we were professional and despite not shooting great in the first leg played enough defence to set up the second leg.”
He added, “Sheffield are playing great basketball. They really turned a corner about 6-8 weeks ago and have been formidable since. I expect two intensely competitive games.”
Awaiting London is the next round is Cheshire Phoenix, who progressed thanks to a great start in their tie against Glasgow Rocks.
Demond Watt has 28 points as the Phoenix won 91-78 in Glasgow on Friday and although they lost 87-86 in Chester on Sunday, it was enough to give Cheshire a 177-165 aggregate win.
Taylor King led the Phoenix on Sunday with 26 points, while the Rocks duo of Tommy Freeman and Danny Huffor both had 18.
The dates for the semi finals are as follows:
Newcastle (1st) v Sheffield (7th)
1st Leg – Sheffield 1st May at 7.30pm
2nd Leg – Newcastle 3rd May at 5:00pm
Cheshire (4th) v London (6th)
1st Leg – London 1st May at 7.30pm
2nd Leg – Cheshire 3rd May at 5.30pm