Basketball: Williams in the clear - for now

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The Independent Online
DERBY STORM'S England international, Yorick Williams, was yesterday cleared to play in the end-of-season play-offs by a joint appeal panel, but only at the cost of a further suspension hanging over his head until the end of February next year.

Williams, though, will miss the League Trophy final against Manchester Giants in two weeks' time, as will his American team-mate Rico Alderson, who withdrew his appeal and is therefore banned until the end of the season.

Both were initially banned until the end of the season by the English Basketball Association and Budweiser League for their role in the fighting that forced Derby's game at Chester on 31 January to be abandoned after 28 seconds. Although Williams' appeal was rejected, the suspension was shortened until the end of the regular league season on 5 April. But the appeal panel imposed a five-game ban on Williams, suspended until 29 February next year.

Despite losing their joint leading scorers, fourth-placed Derby are 16 points ahead of the ninth- placed team with nine games left, and are certain of reaching the play-off quarter-finals.

Corey Jackson, of Newcastle Eagles, has replaced Alderson in tonight's North team for the All Star Game against the South at the Newcastle Arena.

The prospect of an away game in front of 8,000 Israelis in Tel Aviv is never to be relished, but England can relax a little for tonight's final European Championship semi-final group game. The gritty 61-56 victory over Belarus at Crystal Palace on Wednesday means that England do not have to pre-qualify for the 2001 Championship, and their coach, Laszlo Nemeth, said: "For once we didn't go soft and melt away."

The same qualities will be needed tonight, when Ian Whyte and Neville Austin replace John Amaechi and Andy Betts.

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