Basketball: Towers powered into final by Austin

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The Independent Online
Victory over the Sheffield Sharks at Wembley Arena on Saturday advanced London Towers to their second successive Budweiser Championship final and last night's meeting with London Leopards.

They were grateful to Neville Austin, who scored 10 crucial points, including four in the second quarter, to give the Towers a lead they would not lose.

"Our game is trying to get the ball inside to let the other guys come and double down. That way our guards can spot up and hit the jumper," Austin said.

Towers built an eight-point lead by half time, which ballooned to 21 points in the second period. Yet Sharks never made life easy for the London side.

"It wasn't easy at all," Austin added. "It was a tough, physical game. We had a comfortable lead, but we had to work for it. In the second half, we had the same intensity on the floor."

Danny Lewis, the point guard, excelled, scoring 14 third-quarter points and he finished with 26 on the night. He said: "We just wanted them to come at us. We needed to maintain the lead so we went right at them in the second half."

In the other semi-final, Chester Jets could not have come any closer to pulling off a semi-final upset against Leopards as they were beaten by one point. The team that the lost point guard Ross Saunders late in the season to a drugs ban was able to withstand the furious forecourt pressure by Billy Mims' squad. Ricardo Leonard, the Jets' powerful forward, pulled in 39 points but, more importantly, he and the England international Nat Meakin helped bring the ball up the floor.

"We have a team that can at any given night step up and do the job. We can all do it," Leonard said. "Tonight was my night."

Meakin may have cemented his spot in the national squad with a remarkable 23-point performance in which he made nine of 13 shots.

"I've known that I can play for a couple of years," Meakin said. "It's being in the right situation.

"Last year I was at Derby and because it's free flowing, I didn't get many looks at the basket. In this team we play with three big men and it's a little slower but the guys can pass the ball. I just try to look for the open scenes and make the shots."

BUDWEISER CHAMPIONSHIP (Wembley Arena) Semi-finals: Chester Jets 101 (Leonard 39, Meakin 23, Singleton 20), London Leopards 102 (Burks 39, White 24, Davis 18). London Towers 80 (Lewis 26, Brown 13, Windless 12), Sheffield Sharks 72 (Huggins 16, Hames 15, Cauthorn 11, Finch 11).

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