Basketball, Feeling the Force with Louis Sayers: Force celebrate after reaching major milestone in club’s BBL history

Louis Sayers. PIC: Chris Midgley
Louis Sayers. PIC: Chris Midgley
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At the beginning of the 2015-16 British Basketball League season, we set ourselves the goal of making the play-offs.

With it only being the club’s second year in the top flight of British basketball, this was a tough ask. But we did not shy away from the challenge, we embraced it and believed in what we knew we were capable of.

We entered the final weekend with two games to play and, with multiple teams also fighting for the same spot, it meant we had to win both.

Standing in our way were Manchester Giants and Surrey Scorchers, who were both eager to crush our dream.

To kick off the weekend, Manchester Giants travelled to Leeds and were welcomed by a full house! Force fans were flooding into the Arena and were filled with anticipation.

We jumped out to an early lead with the help of some hot shooting from Marek Klassen, who drained four shots from downtown in the first quarter. The Giants rallied before the end of the half with some inspiring offence of their own. We went into half-time with a two-point lead (40-38).

With our season on the line, we knew that we had to step it up a gear. So we returned to the court for the second half ready to get it done. We buckled down on defence and trusted in our offence and, sure enough, the stops started to come and the shots continued to fall.

As the game went on, we managed to keep the Giants out of reach and claim that first victory of the weekend. The final score was 92-77.

Our final game of the regular season was an away match-up against the Surrey Scorchers.

We had our minds on nothing but a win going into this game, but we knew it would not be an easy task. The Surrey Sports Park is a tough place to play for any visiting team, so we prepared for a hostile environment.

With slow starts being our downfall away from home this season, it was important that we started strongly.

Despite the Scorchers putting the first points on the board, we remained calm and did what we came to do. The opening quarter finished with Force up by six (19-25).

It was a low-scoring second period as both teams locked in on defence. The quarter split finished at 12-14 meaning that we went into the half with an eight-point cushion (31-39).

The third quarter followed suit as both teams continued playing tough defence. Neither side wanted to lose this game for different reasons so we knew we were going to have to play to the final buzzer.

Going into the final quarter, Force led by 12 points (45-57) but Scorchers did not give up. With a sell-out crowd behind them, they were inspired to a huge final quarter! They chipped away at our lead and, in the final minutes, things were looking scary for Force.

We’ve been involved in close games all year though, and have found ways to deal with them.

We were not rattled. So we just settled down and got back to what we do well and the Scorchers couldn’t quite finish the job. The game finished 68-72 and Leeds Force claimed their spot in the playoffs! In the first round of the post-season, we will be squaring off against the Leicester Riders.

The winner will be decided by aggregate score after the teams have played each other twice; one at home and one away.

It’s an historic time for basketball in Leeds right now and we’d love you to be a part of it! So please come and support us on Friday, April 22, at the Carnegie Sports Arena, as we compete in the BBL play-offs for the first time!

Andrew Hambleton.

Andrew Hambleton joins Leeds Force ahead of new season