The first weekend of 2016 saw a number of big victories, some much-needed wins and the end of an era for one BBL venue.
Leicester Riders said farewell to their Loughborough home with a bang as they signed off in style with a 91-43 defeat of Leeds Force.
Tyler Bernardini and Drew Sullivan both had 13 points for the Riders, whose next home game will be later this month at their new purpose-built arena in Leicester.
“I thought defensively, we played really well,” said Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro.
“I think both in the full court and the half court, we made it really difficult for them to get good looks at the basket.”
He added, “I loved the way we practiced over the holidays and felt we had our best practices of the season. We were really looking forward to the game and the guys played very well.”
Worcester Wolves continued their recent revival with a 91-66 win at Surrey Scorchers on Saturday. Pavol Losonsky led the way for the visitors with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds as they won for the fifth time in six games.
Sheffield Sharks enjoyed their largest margin of victory since April 2010 on Sunday as they handed Surrey a 107-55 defeat, Antone Robinson enjoying a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds.
The victory was achieved despite being short-handed due to the departure of Mike Cook and an injury to Patrick Horstmann.
“Everyone stepped up and was ready to play,” said Sharks’ Mike Tuck, who finished with 21 points.
“With the unfortunate loss of Cook and Pat being injured, it was one of the things we focused on before the game, that everyone from starters to our guys on the bench have to be ready to play.”
Tuck added, “We had guys in our starting rotation that came up big but I’m most proud of our unsung heroes – the Brownell brothers and Marco Backovic.
“Great to see George in the starting line-up and really holding his own, it’s time for him to start making that jumper and he’s proving that game by game.”
London Lions earned their first win in five games in a nail-biter at the Copper Box after they held on to defeat Plymouth Raiders, 86-84.
Demond Watt, who led the Lions with 19 points, scored the winning basket in the final minute to give his side a much-needed win. Raiders’ Cory Dixon had a game-high 25 points in a losing effort.
Finally, Manchester Giants also got back into the win column following their 88-79 defeat of Cheshire Phoenix.
Ingus Bankevics scored a game-high 22 points as the last-placed Giants took control in the second half.
“I think it was a really big win because we’ve struggled all year,” said Giants’ captain Callum Jones, who finished with 18 points.
“Cheshire’s backs were against the wall and they were missing a number of guys, so this was one we really had to win to give us a little bit of self-belief and confidence that we can still compete in this league.
“Cheshire got tired and started missing a few shots, started making a few mistakes and we were able to capitalise on them,” concluded Jones.