Basketball: Champions on brink of elimination

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The Independent Online

Leicester Riders' defence of their BBL Championship is hanging by a thread after Thursday night's 86-84 defeat against Edinburgh Rocks at Loughborough University.

The Rocks are at Brighton Bears tomorrow night and need one win from their last three games to clinch fourth position and the last play-off spot from the Northern Conference. But they will go through anyway if Riders lose either at Derby Storm tonight or Chester Jets next Sunday.

Thursday night's drama was concentrated into the final 16 seconds after the Riders lost a 15-point lead built on a 19-2 run which closed the first half. Leicester's Larry Johnson had scored 19 points by then, but the Rocks' Ted Berry, Ryan Huntley and a former Rider, Jon Gaines, obliterated his threat and he added only three more points.

When Edinburgh's Roy Gardiner fouled out with six minutes left, Riders paid the price for failing to guard his replacement, Keith Bunyan. He hit a three-pointer to give Rocks an 83-81 lead then, after Ralph Blalock restored Riders' lead with another three, the Scottish Under-23 international was left unmolested to hit the winner.

In 16 seconds Bunyan had transformed Rocks' season. "We're not there yet but this gives us a lot of breathing space," their coach, Kevin Wall, said. "I'm so proud of the way my guys came back in the second half."