Basketball: Leopards close in on league title

GREATER London Leopards kept one hand on their Budweiser League trophy with a 97-92 victory over Thames Valley Tigers last night. Birmingham Bullets must beat Manchester Giants at the NEC tonight to prevent Billy Mims and his boys from becoming the first club in six years to defend the championships successfully.

If Bullets win, the title will be decided on Sunday when the teams simultaneously play their final games of the regular season.

A Leopards victory at Sheffield Sharks will guarantee them the championship, but if they lose and Bullets triumph at ailing London Towers, Mike Finger's team will snatch the crown at the last.

Leopards trailed 41-31 in the first half last night, but eight points from John White in a 10-3 run put them 63-56 ahead and they never trailed again.

The final places in the play-off quarter-finals also remain on the line. Leicester City Riders' 83-76 win at Derby Storm last night means the final two places will be contested between the east Midland rivals and Manchester.

Last night Riders forced Derby to play at their slower pace, allowing James Havrilla and Billy Singleton to dominate the rebounds at both ends and set up Geno Ford and JaRon Boone for a hail of three-pointers. Ford hit three and Boone two in the first quarter for Riders to lead 26-16. Singleton opened the second half with five unanswered points as Derby failed to lead even once in the entire game.

Singleton's 18 points included 13 from the free throw line, while Ford also scored his last six points from the foul line to lead all scorers with 27 points. Ford and Boone hit five three-pointers each.

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