Basketball: Granby Halls boost for Riders

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The Independent Online
The axe has been lifted from the Granby Halls, giving Leicester City Riders an extra boost to face the Budweiser League champions, the Leopards, in tonight's first game of their best-of-three play-off quarter-final series.

The Riders snatched eighth place in the league with their 96-94 victory over Birmingham Bullets a week ago, but believed tonight's visit of the Leopards would be their finale at Granby Halls, which have been marked for demolition since last year.

Instead, Leicester City Council are allowing the club to remain at the venue for next season. The Riders will take responsibility for managing the basketball court, with the rest of the building sealed off.

The other quarter-finals pair, Newcastle Eagles (seventh) against league runners-up London Towers, Manchester Giants (sixth) against third-placed Sheffield Sharks, with Chester Jets (fifth) facing Birmingham (fourth). The four survivors play at Wembley Arena on 3 and 4 May.

The champions, Leopards, will be wary of their visit to Leicester, where the Riders coach, Bob Donewald, whips up intense support from the crowd, prowls the sidelines and berates the officials. He also has an explosive, if unpredictable, team.

The Leopards coach, Billy Mims, runs him close in playing the hype factor to the maximum, and after commentating on the last two play-off finals wants to ensure he is on court next month and not stranded in the TV gantry.

Mims said: "The play-off finals are the showcase of British basketball. You want the best four teams to be there and I think that includes us, so it's a matter of making sure we get there."

If Mims is feeling under pressure, Donewald is keen to add to it: "With the players they've got they should beat us by 15 or 20 points," he said. "These games shouldn't even be close."

Whatever, it will be the quickest series. The second leg is at London Arena tomorrow and the third game, if required, is in London on Tuesday.

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