Basketball: Leicester Riders in final after nail-biting finish
For the first time in more than a year Leicester Riders lost a home game – but they was still huge celebratiions as the buzzer sounded.
Riders went down 68-66 to Worcester Wolves in an epic BBL Trophy semi-final second leg on Saturday, but their nine-point victory in Worcester on Friday ensured they won 148-141 on aggregate.
Riders now have the chance to get their hands on the BBL Trophy for the first time as they take on Sheffield Sharks at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, on Saturday.
It will be the Riders' third consecutive final having won this season's Cup and reached last season's play-off final as well.
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But they were less than five minutes away from heartbreak as Worcester overturned the first-leg deficit to lead by a point on aggregate twice in the fourth quarter.
Riders, though, were not to be denied as Drew Sullivan and Zaire Taylor came up with some inspirational play.
It was a real physical battle with points at a premium in the first quarter. A Jay Couisnard score had Riders 15-10 ahead after nine minutes, but an Arnas Kazlauskas triple on the buzzer made it a two-point game at the end of the opening quarter.
Riders were in the ascendency in the early stages of the second quarter and a spell of 10 points to two had them 27-18 in front and doubled their aggregate lead.
A tremendous steal by Taylor resulted in a behind-the-back pass from Jorge Calvo to Anthony Rowe on the break as Riders went into top gear leading 34-22 on the night and by 21 on aggregate.
But the Wolves again hit a three-pointer on the buzzer to cap an 8-0 finish to the first half and began the third period with 12 of the first 14 points to suddenly threaten Riders' aggregate lead.
Riders were trailing 42-36 before Taylor bagged seven in a row to calm the nerves of the home faithful.
Early in the fourth quarter, Sherrad Prezzie-Blue hit two audacious three-point shots as Worcester moved back in front.
And when he connected with three foul shots six minutes from the end, Worcester were ahead by 10 on the night and by one on aggregate.
Sullivan immediately scored for Riders, but Alex Owumi answered for the visitors and, with just under five minutes to play, Worcester were ahead again in the tie.
Pavol Losonsky came up with a huge steal which he ran back for two points, Taylor hit a gutsy three and suddenly things looked better for the Riders with a six point aggregate lead.
A technical foul on Rowe for dissent allowed the visitors to move within three points on aggregate, but he atoned for that error with an offensive rebound and score.
With 90 seconds remaining, it was still in the balance at 62-68, but Taylor again hit a clutch three-point shot.
Leicester's defence did the rest and didn't allow Worcester another point to book their place in the BBL Trophy final for only the third time in their history.
Riders: Taylor 16, Rowe 14, Sullivan 12, Losonsky 10, Calvo 9, Couisnard 5, Williams, Lamble, Anderson, Dawes, Angelakos.
Wolves: Owumi 29, Prezzie-Blue 14, Kazlauskas 9, Masiulis 8, Williams 8, Fernandez, Ziwa, Irving, Ocitti.