Basketball: Riders rally despite financial worries

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The Independent Online

Within a week of the British Basketball League announcing all 10 of their clubs have signed to play in the competition next season, Leicester Riders fans left the 78-76 win over Scottish Rocks on Saturday night fearing their team may not have enough funds to last another seven days.

A threadbare Riders squad of just seven players fought to a stirring victory over the Rocks, but at half-time supporters were told by club official Mike Steptoe that the franchise-holding company had gone into liquidation.

The news made for an emotional second half at the John Sandford sports centre on the campus of Leicester's De Montfort University. A 17-3 run, including three three-pointers from Terrance McGee gave the Riders a 75-68 lead but the victory was secured only six seconds from time by a single free-throw from Adam Williams.

The BBL chief executive Paul Blake moved quickly to quieten the fans' fears. Blake said: "There is a solution to the issue and I am more than confident that Riders will see out the season." The franchise reverts to the previous owner Kevin Routledge, who will now join his son Dan, a former BBL employee, Steptoe and Steve White in trying to raise funds to see out the season.

Sheffield Sharks had simpler matters on their minds ­ winning the championship ­ and they won 98-86 at Guildford Heat on Saturday night to briefly leapfrog the Surrey club and take over first place in the table. Blake Shelton led the Sheffield scoring with 29 points as they capitalised on Guildford losing the impressive Chad McKnight to a first-half injury.

However, Guildford recovered with an 89-82 victory at London United last night, scoring the last nine points of the game as Brian Dux led the way with 31 points, although London's Great Britain international Tarick Johnson led all scorers with 39.

Guildford are level on 16 wins with Sheffield and Newcastle Eagles, 91-67 winners over Worcester Wolves on Saturday, but the Heat have two games in hand over their rivals.