Basketball: Baker's bravado pays off

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The Independent Online
SEDROY BAKER does not stand at the free throw line very often, and when he does scores at barely 50 per cent. But in the final seconds of Greater London Leopards' 83-79 win at London Towers on Saturday night, "Steddy" lived up to the words of his coach.

Leopards' Billy Mimms said: "If the game is on the line and Steddy's at the line, I feel we are in safe hands".

The 29-year-old Baker, whose twin brother Ronnie plays for Manchester Giants, responded to the added pressure of television cameras for the third time this season. His free throws steered the Leopards to a 77-73 win at Newcastle Eagles on the opening day, and forced overtime in the Cup Final against Sheffield Sharks two weeks ago.

The Leopards came from five points down to lead by 10 early in the third quarter against Towers at Crystal Palace, but had to survive a late scare after Malcolm Leak's three pointers put them 77-76 behind.

Ben Baum, Leopards' 6ft 10 inch Englishman made a three-point play and hit another basket before Towers cut their lead to two points. Baker was fouled and stepped up to secure Leopards' third successive win since losing the cup final.

Mimms said: "All three wins have been against teams above us in the league". Leopards have now consolidated their place in the play-off frame, in eighth place but four points above ninth-placed Leicester, with two games in hand.

The league leaders Sheffield gave their defence a night off and coasted to a 133-107 win at bottom club Worthing Bears as Birmingham Bullets lost in the league at Derby for the first time in four years. With 24 points from England's Yorick Williams to lead them to a 107-94 win, Derby outscored Birmingham 14-0 over four minutes in the second period to take control.

Leicester's grip on a play-off quarter-final spot loosened further as 8-0 and 11-0 runs by Newcastle in the second quarter laid the foundation for a 94-76 win at Granby Halls.

The Tynesiders opened the third quarter 12-2 and prospered as Ralph Blalock led their scorers with 20 points.