With two weeks to go it’s neck and neck at the BBL Championship summit after Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles both reached the 50-point mark at the weekend.
Friday saw the Riders once again show their ability to close out tight games as they held off a comeback from Worcester Wolves to win 75-72 on the home court of their rivals.
The Wolves had battled back from a 15-point deficit at the half and led 72-71 after Jay Cousinard (19 points) connected on a three-pointer with 90 seconds left.
But, as they have done so many times this season, the Riders dug deep and pull out the victory thanks to Drew Sullivan and Tyler Bernardini (18 points) holding their nerve at the free-throw line.
It was a more straightforward affair on Sunday as the Riders rolled to a 92-68 defeat of Plymouth Raiders behind 20 points from Sullivan.
Raiders fought back from a deficit to tie the game 42-42 early in the third quarter but after that it was all one-way traffic as the Riders quickly built a lead they would not relinquish.
“If you look at what we did, with five games in ten days, against good teams, to beat Worcester on Friday, it says a lot [about us],” said Riders’ Tyler Bernardini.
“To go out and win them all just says a lot about who our group is, and to have a different leading scorer every night… I just love playing with this team.”
As for Newcastle, the Eagles remain in a strong position to pounce should the Riders slip up in the next two weeks and Fab Flournoy’s side showed no signs of rust after a two-week break.
Joe Chapman led the way with 17 points as the Eagles cruised to a 90-65 victory over Bristol Flyers, and on Sunday it was Charles Smith’s time to shine as he top-scored with 23 points and 12 rebounds in a 115-81 triumph at Manchester Giants.
In the race for third place, Sheffield Sharks have the edge after their impressive 83-63 win at Glasgow Rocks on Sunday.
Kyle Odister was the Sharks’ leading man with 19 points as the Yorkshire side controlled the game throughout and severely dented the Rocks’ own hopes of finishing third.
However, Sterling Davis’ side did at least get one win from the weekend. Johnny Bunyan had one of his best games of the season, netting a game-high 21 points as the Rocks cruised to a 103-65 victory at Surrey Scorchers.
Cheshire Phoenix’s place in the Play-Offs is just about confirmed after they also beat Surrey at the weekend; Quincy Taylor leading them with 23 points in a 104-74 defeat of the Scorchers.
Finally, Leeds Force moved to within two points of the Play-Off places after they beat London Lions, 74-69.
Lions had fought back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a 64-62 lead with just over two minutes to go, before Louis Sayers’ three-pointer gave Leeds the lead for good.
“We beat a talented team and were able to negate some of their bigger threats,” said Force coach Matt Newby.
“I thought defensively second half we were excellent, particularly on the interior.”
Force were led by 16 points and 13 rebounds from Rob Marsden, supported by 16 points from Marek Klassen.