In comparison to recent history in the British Basketball League (BBL), this season has been hugely successful for the league rookies, Leeds Force.
However, looking back at the season it could have been an astronomical success.
Riding their first two-game win streak of the season, Leeds went to the North East on Friday night high in confidence against the table-topping Newcastle Eagles.
If anyone ever questions whether confidence has an impact on performance, I would steer you towards this game.
After losing by an average of 27 points in the previous three encounters, Force had Newcastle on the ropes with less than a minute to play in regulation.
The Force team, which usually uses low-scoring games to their advantage, used quite the opposite approach and were in full flow.
Racing out to a 14-10 lead after just five minutes of play, behind seven points from point guard James McCann.
It would take a huge effort from league MVP candidate Charles Smith, to leave Leeds trailing 31-25 after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Leeds’ league best defence come into full flow, holding the BBL’s best offensive team to just 11 points.
This quarter was Will Hall’s time to shine, pouring in 10 points to contribute to Leeds’ 24 second-quarter tally.
In the Force’s highest-scoring first half of the season, they held a 49-42 lead going into the half-time break.
Despite the lead, everyone knew that the second half was not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
The third quarter was proof of what the Eagles are capable of, despite a Mikulic three-pointer to open. Newcastle started to get their offence going and out-scored the Yorkshire side 18-6 to finish the third quarter.
With Leeds now trailing by two points going into the fourth quarter, the momentum looked to have shifted in the home side’s favour.
However, everyone forgot to tell the rookies that this was Newcastle’s game to win and just refused to lie down.
After an Anebo tip-in, Leeds completed a 6-0 run to start the quarter and force an Eagles timeout. Three consecutive three-pointers from Smith propelled Newcastle on a 15-5 run-in just three minutes and left the upset looking very unlikely.
The Force are fast becoming the team that just don’t give up, with Camille once again providing a huge three-pointer to put Leeds up by one with just over a minute left to play.
Two missed free-throws from Scott Martin forced Newcastle to foul McCann, who sank both free-throws calmly to give Leeds a three-point lead with just 12 seconds left to play in the game.
After a strategic foul from Mikulic to avoid a three-pointer from the on-fire Charles Smith, Eagles made two of two and Leeds just needed to get the ball in to secure the victory.
However, after a lot of pressure and contact from Newcastle’s Fletcher, the ball ended up out of bounds on the sideline and it was Eagles ball.
After the inbounds, Fletcher drove the lane and after little contact a foul was called and sent him to the line to win the game. He made only one of two and the game was sent into overtime.
In overtime Leeds couldn’t stop Newcastle from scoring and they ran away with an eventual 98-91 victory.
Despite the loss, the game certainly underlined Leeds Force’s run into form in these last few games.
With Leeds no longer able to make the playoffs, there is still a chance to have a real effect on the final standings with Glasgow and Bristol both fighting for position.
This Friday (7:30pm, Carnegie Sports Arena) is the last time you can see West Yorkshire’s only BBL team in action until September.
Don’t miss out and come and show your support.