Flyers edge out thriller and go top, while Patriots and Riders secure comfortable wins

BBL Championship
Bristol Flyers 78-73 Cheshire Phoenix (21-21, 34-35, 52-57)
(Flyers – King 32, Miller 14, Olison 10, Bell lii 10; Phoenix – Evans 19, Jack 19, Anderson 13)

BBL Championship
Newcastle Eagles 79-95 Plymouth City Patriots (20-25, 41-52, 58-65)
(Eagles – Johnson 25, Kennedy 17, Defoe 11; Patriots – Dusha 22, Williams 21, Hassan 15)

BBL Championship
Leicester Riders 71-58 Sheffield Sharks (15-10, 30-32, 50-47)
(Riders – Jackson 17, Loving 15, Whelan 13; Sharks – Koch 12, Banks Jr. 11, Nichols 10)

In another busy night for the BBL, Bristol Flyers climbed to the top of the championship standings with a hard-fought win over Cheshire Phoenix, while Plymouth City Patriots and Leicester Riders secured comfortable wins over Newcastle Eagles and B. Braun Sheffield Sharks respectively.

In the first of the three games, Bristol and Cheshire put on a classic down in the south-west. The match started with Flyers instantaneously asserting their dominance over Phoenix and sprinting to a 14-0 lead, before going up by as many as 15 (20-5), led by Vincent King who scored 13 of those. Coach Thomas was forced to call a time-out to prevent the situation from getting any worse for his team.

Whatever he told his players clearly worked, as they went on an 11-0 run, led by their tough defence that forced the home side to stay scoreless for six consecutive possessions. It was Coach Kapoulas’ turn to now call a time-out, with the difference at just four points (20-16).

Cheshire however didn’t stop hustling on defence and managed to finish the first quarter all tied at 21 apiece – showing their impressive turnaround from being 15 points down.

The second period started in a similar way to how the first ended, with Phoenix playing suffocating defence and forcing their opponents to turn the ball over. The visitors capitalised on their defence by utilising the fast break and managed to take the lead for the first time in the game and even go up by as many as nine points (23-32).

What is incredible is that this constituted a run of 3-27, after Bristol had led 20-5 in the first five minutes of the match.

Thankfully for Flyers, they managed to regain their composure and led by their defence, started clawing back the deficit. King continued his offensive dominance, scoring his season average of 17 points with three minutes to go before the half. Bristol even managed to briefly re-take the lead (34-32) in the last minute of the quarter, before Tahjai Teague scored a 3-pointer to help his team lead at the break 34-35.

The second half started very differently to the first, with the two teams very evenly matched throughout the first 10 minutes. Unlike the other two periods where one team would go on a big run and then the other would reciprocate, the third quarter was evenly matched throughout.

Cheshire however managed to outscore their opponents by four points and take a five-point lead going into the fourth (52-57).

The final quarter began with the two teams once again trading buckets – every time the visitors tried to increase their lead and pull away, Bristol found a way to claw their way back in. Their long-range shooting was particularly crucial for that, making three 3s back-to-back and shooting 47% from behind the arc for the game.

Flyers managed to re-gain the lead with just under five minutes left to play until the final whistle (67-66) and held onto it until the end, by the skin of their teeth. Despite Phoenix’s tenacious defence – recording a game total of 14 steals – they were unable to edge ahead when they had the chance.

With 20 seconds left in the game and Bristol up by four points (74-70), Jamell Anderson came up with a big play and stole the ball, before setting Marcus Evans off on the fast break, where he scored an And-1, bringing his team to within one (74-73).

Cheshire then quickly fouled King and sent him to the line, where he made both free throws and put Flyers up by three points with 15 seconds left (76-73), with Coach Thomas calling a time-out to plan the last offence.

Despite Bristol living dangerously and opting not to foul, Cheshire was unable to score that all important 3 to send the game to overtime, with King securing the rebound and essentially ending the game, taking his team to the top of the standings led by his double-double of 32 points, 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile in the second of the two matches to tip off at 19:30, Newcastle Eagles and Plymouth City Patriots faced off in the north-east, with both teams wanting to move up the standings. The two sides were neck and neck in the first quarter, with the visitors edging out a high scoring period by five points (20-25).

The second quarter was very similar, with Plymouth once again coming out on top by a small margin, which combined with the lead from the first period, enabled them to go into the half up by double digits (41-52).

However, Eagles weren’t about to lie down and let that happen, especially in front of their loyal crowd at the Vertu Motors Arena, outscoring their opponents by four points in the third quarter, only allowing Patriots to score a game-low of 13 points.

The visitors, who had travelled over 400 miles from one end of the country to the other for this game were not going to let all their hard work slip away and turned on their offensive engines big time in the fourth quarter, scoring a game high 30 points in the final quarter. Elvisi Dusha and Antonio Williams both put up excellent numbers with 22 and 21 points respectively, helping their team secure their fourth win and move up to seventh and a 4-5 record, while Newcastle dropped to 2-7.

The third of this evening’s games featured Leicester Riders and Sheffield Sharks, with the home team just two spots above their opponents in the championship standings.

Despite Leicester recording a comfortable win in the end, the game was pretty even to start, with the two defences firmly on top, as the first quarter ended 15-10.

The second quarter saw a 12-point swing, as Sheffield started moving the ball very well and finding the open shot, helping them outscore their opponents 15-22, going into the half up by two points (30-32).

The third period saw the pendulum swing the other way once again, with Riders now taking the upper hand, scoring 20 points and conceding 15, allowing them to take a three point lead going into the final 10 minutes.

They managed to hold onto that lead throughout the final quarter, putting on a dominant display and only allowing Sheffield to score 11 points, giving them a comfortable win in the end, helping them move to 7-3 for the season, while Sharks dropped to 5-6.

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