Leicester Riders made club history last night with a 90-72 success over Guildford Heat, securing their highest finish in the BBL.
The home side were led by a 25 point haul from Bradd Wierzbicki while Drew Sullivan contributed a huge double-double with 19 points and 18 rebounds as Leicester claimed second spot at the expense of Worcester.
Leicester made a fast start with an early 14-2 run, containing two triples from Wierzbicki and another from Cameron Rundles, putting them in the ascendancy. At the end of the first quarter, the lead was already in double figures for the Riders as the score read 25-13 in their favour.
Guildford tried to reduce their arrears in the second quarter and began to do so with a run of six unanswered points before Leicester hit back with the next seven to make it a 20 point game. Shaun Durant netted a late three in the half but the home side were still in control, taking a 51-35 advantage into the interval.
The Riders made the game virtually safe in the third with another dominant quarter which started with a 15-3 run as the lead neared 30 points. Julius Joseph fired the Heat into action momentarily as his three sparked an 8-0 burst although the visitors still trailed by 22 heading into the final quarter, 72-50 down.
A 7-0 start to the fourth by the Riders, capped by another three from Wierzbicki, saw the lead peak at 29 points. To their credit, Guildford battled on a 14-2 response cut the gap to less than twenty points. Joseph also connected with two scores from beyond the arc late on but the damage had already been done and Leicester finished their regular season with another club record- 22 wins.
Rob Paternostro’s men surpass the team of 2008-09, who had finished the season third with 21 wins. Leicester’s team unity has been a major factor of their success in a team involving a leading contender for the MVP award, Ayron Hardy, who added 16 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals on the night.
In the night’s other match on Saturday, the MK Lions leapfrogged Mersey Tigers into 9th position (on head-to-head) with a hard-fought 96-91 win on the road to the Durham Wildcats.
Durham had produced a strong opening quarter to lead their opponents 32-25 although the visitors hit back with a dominant second to lead by one at the half, 53-54. The Lions continued to stretch their lead and took a 68-75 advantage into the final quarter.
The lead peaked at 12 with five minutes remaining but the Wildcats soon closed within two at 88-90. However, the Lions closed out the win with Demarius Bolds and Daniel Northern both adding 26 points.
The quarter-final line-up for the play-offs is taking shape as Newcastle v Guildford and Plymouth v Glasgow are the first fixtures to be confirmed. Cheshire take on Sheffield today in a battle for sixth place with the winner taking on Worcester in the last eight while the loser will go up against the Riders.