Holley hands Leopards the title

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The Independent Online
Basketball

Thames Valley Tigers' American forward Tony Holley guaranteed the Budweiser League Championship to London club the Leopards last night when his last- second three-pointer knocked Sheffield Sharks out of the title race with a 69-68 win at Sheffield Arena.

The Leopards followed Saturday night's 101-94 victory at Birmingham Bullets by beating Derby Storm 93-90 at London Arena last night.

Holley's dramatic winner for the Tigers means the Leopards could now even lose their last game, at home to the bottom club Hemel Royals on Thursday, and still win the League.

Nerves almost forced Leopards to put the champagne back on ice last night, when they trailed Derby 44-25 in the second quarter.

John Tresvant capped the Leopards' comeback to take the lead at 87-85 and after free throws from Tim Davis put them 93-90 ahead, they survived when Wayne Mulgrave's three-pointer hit the rim.

Leopards have 2-1 series wins over Birmingham, London Towers, Sheffield and Chester Jets, who all began the League's penultimate weekend with the theoretical chance of taking the title. Leopards will be placed above any of them in a tie.

Towers' coach Kevin Cadle knew the title was slipping away with recent single-point overtime defeats against Bullets and Leopards. "We had our chance to be in control and we blew it."

Coach Billy Mims' Leopards team, in just their third season, have now added the League Championship title to the National Cup they won in January and can complete a hat-trick at the play-off finals at Wembley Arena on 3 and 4 May.

Thames Valley's victory means they are now challenging Leicester City Riders and Derby for the final place in the play-off quarter-finals.

Derby beat Worthing Bears 98-91 on Saturday, while Leicester fought back from 22 points down but lost 105-102 to London Towers.

Birmingham went into Saturday night's game with a realistic chance of taking the title, but were caught cold when Leopards jumped into a 10- 0 lead.

The England international Ronnie Baker, with a three-pointer, and a basket from the American guard Eric Burks broke an 86-86 tie to put Leopards five points clear.

They closed the game with six free throws over the final 90 seconds.

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