BASKETBALL: Banned pair lead Derby to final

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RICO ALDERSON and Yorick Williams last night led Derby Storm to next month's Uni-Ball Trophy final against Manchester Giants at the National Exhibition Centre, but they will not be there to enjoy the club's first appearance in a major final.

Alderson, with 21 points, and Williams, with 25, steered Derby to a 178- 168 aggregate win with last night's 93-90 defeat in the semi-final, second leg at Leicester City Riders, but from Monday both will be banned for the rest of the season following last month's brawl at Chester Jets.

Leicester began needing to overturn a 13-point first-leg deficit and, remarkably, achieved the feat once in each half. Marc Awley put them 41- 27 ahead, then Drew Barrett's free throws stretched the aggregate lead to three points.

But Derby outscored them 22-8 up to the interval, to trail only 53-51 at that stage. Leicester went four ahead on aggregate in the second period at 80-63, but conceded 16 points in the final three minutes.

Manchester Giants sealed their place in the final with a 93-88 victory over Sheffield Sharks on Wednesday. The triumph gave them a 174-165 aggregate success over the holders as they bounced back from a 10-point deficit in the first quarter. Giants were made to fight all the way by the Sharks but, helped by John White's points haul of 36, they just crept home.

Thames Valley Tigers strengthened their hold on third spot in the Budweiser League with a 97-89 victory at Newcastle Eagles on the same evening. Elsewhere, Greater London Leopards just held on to defeat Chester Jets 86-85 in a thrilling finale. Milton Keynes pulled away in the final quarter to defeat the Edinburgh Rocks 73-63 and climb into ninth spot.