Basketball: James whips the Tigers into action

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PAUL JAMES, the Thames Valley Tigers coach, is finally seeing signs that his players have shaken off their National Cup final hang-over. Saturday's 94-86 victory at Leicester City Riders was their fifth in a row and the run has put them back on the fringe of the Budweiser League championship race.

Tigers went flat after beating Leicester 82-78 in the cup final one month ago and within a week lost to Greater London Leopards and Birmingham Bullets.

James said: "Suddenly everyone was too satisfied, as if now they had won something they could relax. But we were only halfway through the season. After the Birmingham defeat I had to read the riot act and lay down a few home truths. I set a target of winning at least 10 of the next 12 games and now we're halfway there."

Tigers are sixth, but only six points behind the joint leaders and with games in hand over three of the clubs above them. "The minimum is to finish in the top four to get home advantage in the play-off quarter finals," Jones said.

"If any of the top clubs have a bad run we must be close enough to capitalise."

Tigers' John McCord, unstoppable in the first half, led their scorers with 28 points, while Riders' Billy Singleton scored a game-high 29 points in a losing cause.

Sheffield Sharks, finalists in the League Trophy, won 95-78 at Crystal Palace on Saturday to move joint top with Leopards, Bullets and London Towers. Sharks' England captain, John Amaechi, was the top scorer with 29 points.

Derby Storm, like Leicester, lost ground in the battle to take the final play-off place by losing 84-75 at Worthing Bears, whose Canadian Greg Francis led all scorers with 24 points. The Storm are now 10th in the league, fighting for a top-eight finish to qualify for the play-offs.