Basketball: Leicester Riders into BBL Trophy semi-final
Leicester Riders battled through to the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy with an 82-66 win at Surrey Heat last night.
The Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders were made to fight all the way before a late surge sealed their victory.
Jay Couisnard led the way for Riders with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Drew Sullivan was at his imperious best with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Riders started the game on fire with a smothering defence quelling the Heat.
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Zaire Taylor opened the scoring for the visitors with a three, and Riders raced into a 15-2 lead with six-and-a-half minutes gone.
The home side were rattled, but veteran Julius Joseph hit a three, followed by another from Caylin Raftopoulos, and, with an 8-0 run, Heat were back in it, trailing just 18 to 12, with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
Couisnard steadied the Riders' ship with a three, followed by a two, and at the first quarter break, Leicester were good value for their 24-16 lead.
Riders carried on where they left off in the second period, opening with a Couisnard three.
But Joseph continued to carry the load for the home side, though Riders remained in control 35-26 with four minutes gone in the quarter.
But then the Surrey guard Chavis Holmes turned the momentum of the game. Two steals and two baskets in quick succession by Holmes, followed by an Albert Margai three and Riders were rattled.
Surrey continued their hot play with Margai hitting another three and a two, and courtesy of a 13-0 Heat run, holding Riders scoreless for five minutes, Surrey were on top 39- 35.
Pavol Losonsky finally stopped the rot for the visitors, and that turned the tide, Riders closing out the half on a 10-0 run to regain the lead at halftime 45-39.
The third quarter was a slug fest with neither side giving an inch. A Drew Sullivan three was immediately matched by one from Martelle McLemore.
But then Jorge Calvo made a superb breakaway with a free-throw to follow, and by the end of the third quarter Riders were still on top 62-54.
The opening minutes of the fourth quarter proved decisive. Barry Lamble opened with an easy jump shot, but then Sullivan hit a jumper followed by a three, capping a 7-0 run to open up a 69-54 Riders lead.
Frank Holmes inspired the Heat to cut the gap to 12, and force Riders' coach Rob Paternostro to a time out.
There were a flurry of fouls near the end with Anthony Rowe and Frank Holmes picking up technicals to boot, but the Heat could not dent the Riders lead, and a Couisnard dunk capped the well deserved victory.
Riders now face a two-legged semi-final against either Newcastle Eagles or Worcester Wolves, whose quarter-final tie is next week.
Heat: Joseph 16, Margai 12,Holmes C 12, Holmes F 8; Cricelli 10, McLemore 3,Raftopoulos 3, Simek 2
Riders: Couisnard 22, Sullivan 19, Losonsky 10, Rowe 8, Taylor 7, Anderson 4, Calvo 6, Lamble 4, Washington 2
Riders are back in action tonight looking to draw back level on points with champions Newcastle Eagles at the top of the BBL Championship.
Struggling Mersey Tigers are the visitors to the John Sandford Sports Centre (7.30).
The Tigers, blighted by financial difficulties, have yet to win a game this season.
However, coach Rob Paternostro insists his team will not be taking the league's bottom side lightly. "We approach every game the same," he said.
"The league table doesn't influence our preparations. They compete hard and their energy is always high right to the end."
Riders: Okoro, Couisnard, Stewart, Sullivan, Calvo, Hopkins, Taylor, Anderson, Washington, Lamble, Haggith, Gould, Dawes, Maynard, Losonsky, Rowe
Tigers: Allerston, Lockett, Wait, Hudson, Semi, McGinn, Hulsen, Calvo, Bigley, Pilkington, Gallagher