The BA London Leopards moved closer to completing an historic treble after defeating Leicester Warriors 82-71 at the National Final Fours in Manchester. The second semi-final saw the Derby Trailblazers put in a dominant performance to beat Bristol 74-55.
The Leopards continued their winning streak despite making a slow start. Vernon Teel, recently named Player of the Year, top scored along with David Buchberger with 24 points while Ousman Krubally added a valuable 15 points and 20 rebounds. Eugene Pettway had a game high 30 points for the fifth seeds.
Leicester made the better start of the two sides and edged a low-scoring opening quarter 13-10. In the second, the Warriors stormed ahead with a 14-2 run to stun their opponents into action at 12-27 down.
Teel sprung the league champions into life with his three pointer instigating a run of twelve unanswered points to close the gap. David Buchberger then netted two of his own, including one on the half-time buzzer as all of a sudden the Leopards had taken the lead at 37-35.
Dejan Mihevc’s side asserted their authority when play resumed with a dominant third quarter display. Leicester managed to stay within reach for the majority of the third set of ten but a 9-3 run from the Leopards opened up a 11 point gap, which they took into the final quarter with the score reading 58-47 in their favour.
The Big Cats used a 10-0 burst to take the lead out to 18 points at 73-55 as they closed on a 21st consecutive victory. However, a trio of triples from David Wells gave Leicester a glimmer of hope as the deficit was cut to single figures. It proved to be too late for the Warriors as the Leopards wrapped up yet another win to reach the Play-Off final.
Their opponents will be the National Trophy champions, Derby after they powered past the second seeds, Bristol in the final quarter. Troy Whittington top scored with 23 points while Rishi Kakad (17pts) and Martyn Gayle (16pts) provided valuable support.
The Trailblazers were 32-25 in front at the half-way stage although their opponents had finished with an 11-2 run. The Flyers carried their momentum into the second half and this time a 9-2 close was enough to give them a slender one point lead heading into the final quarter at 42-41.
However, that proved to be their final lead of the match as Gayle sparked a 10-0 opening for Derby and they never looked back. A 9-2 burst midway through the fourth took the lead out to a convincing 19 points and that was to be the winning margin of victory.