Basketball: First win sets Force on the offensive

Sheffield Sharks' Patrick Horstmann tries to get past Leeds Force. Picture: Andrew Roe
Sheffield Sharks' Patrick Horstmann tries to get past Leeds Force. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Leeds Force go in search of revenge against Plymouth Raiders tonight fuelled by their ‘statement’ win over Sheffield Sharks last week.

The BBL rookies claimed the biggest scalp of their maiden campaign when they beat the seasoned Sharks 62-60 in the Steel City last Friday. It was their fourth win in the BBL Championship and one that director of basketball Matt Newby says caught the attention of the rest of the league.

Together with giving a few scares to the long-established teams of the British basketball elite, it was another feather in the Force’s cap.

But Newby now wants to turn that new-found belief into victories against the teams in direct competition with them at the foot of the table – starting tonight against a Plymouth side who have beaten them twice.

“Playing well against the big teams and beating the Sharks is great, but it’s the teams just above us in mid-table and around us at the bottom who we have to beat if we are going to climb the table,” said Newby. “And we owe Plymouth one – absolutely. In the first game we were in a position to close out the game and couldn’t. Then at their place, we were in a real hole at 32 points down but we came back strongly but just left ourselves too much to do.”

On the victory against the Sharks, who have been playing at the elite level for two decades, Newby added: “That was a statement result by us, and it was a result that was recognised by the league. We’ve had a lot of praise from teams since then.

“Beating the Sharks, with their heritage, was a big deal for me personally, given how much work the coaches and players have put in.”

Twenty-four hours after levelling the Yorkshire series at one apiece, Leeds were beaten 74-54 by the Leicester Riders.

Developing the mental strength and playing resources to be able to back-up performances night after night is one of the next hurdles this improving team has to overcome.

“Backing up performances was always going to be a question mark for us,” said Newby.

“We showed really solid improvements against Sheffield from the last time we’d played them. And we then learned a few things about ourselves against Leicester. They showed the quality they have got in depth.

“We didn’t have any legs and lacked a bit of a spark.

“That ability to go again night after night is something we’ll learn over time.

“In the past we’ve been able to double up but that was in the national leagues. The standard has gone up.

“All in all we cannot really complain. The work-rate of the boys over Christmas was excellent considering how many long-established teams we faced.”

Leeds have also been busy strengthening their squad with the additions of Sam Attah and Devon Van Oostrum.

Twenty-six-year-old former Newcastle and Durham player Attah top-scored in the win over Sheffield.

Newby said: “Sam’s taken a lot of responsibility on his shoulders already.

“He’s been at a few places and always been under the radar, but here, with his experience, he’s instantly a senior player.

“And I’ve been impressed with how he’s taken that on board.

“He’s a very consistent performer.”

Tonight’s tip-off at the Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett University is 7.30pm.

Michel-Ofik Nzege made early in-roads.

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