Basketball: Back-to-back wins force Leeds up the league table – Sayers

DeAndre Bullard.
DeAndre Bullard.
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Force secured back to back wins on the weekend in our BBL Championship match ups against Plymouth Raiders (91-72) and Cheshire Phoenix (74-82), sending us up the table and into the play-off picture.

Before I fill you in on the events of the weekend, I’d just like to take a moment to introduce myself to you, the reader. My name is Louis Sayers and I am a member of the Leeds Force basketball team who are the topic of the column I’ll be writing for you throughout the course of the season.

I learned the game initially in Peterborough, where I grew up playing with my older brother and his friends. Like most boys growing up in England, I spent my early childhood playing football and had never even considered basketball. But when I discovered the game, I realised that it was something I really enjoyed doing and wanted to improve at so I would practice every single day. I’d say that certain parts of basketball came naturally to me when I first started and then I started to grow, which helped my cause considerably.

As I started to get better and fall in love with the game, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in basketball. The journey to becoming a professional basketball player in the BBL presented many challenges along the way. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice but, the way I see it, nothing that is worth doing is ever easy and nor should it be.

I’m currently playing in my third year in the BBL having spent the first two years in the south west playing for Plymouth Raiders and now spending the third year up north with the Leeds Force. I will be bringing you weekly updates on how our team is doing on the court, exciting goings on around the club and, sometimes, some non-Leeds related basketball news.

I’m a basketball player first and a journalist second, but I’ll do my best to bring you along on the journey with us through this column.

On to the games! The first of two important league games this weekend was against Plymouth Raiders, a team that, despite being in close games with multiple teams, came to the Carnegie Sports Arena having lost all five of their games so far. We knew that we couldn’t afford to be complacent against a team who were looking for an opportunity to get off the mark.

After a strong opening quarter from Force, the visitors turned the tide and managed to finish the half with the lead (44-37). Displaying a combination of hard-nosed defence and aggressive offence, we responded with a massive third quarter which saw us go on a 19-0 run and take the lead once again, only this time, we didn’t look back. The game finished 91-72 in favour of the Force.

There were a number of impressive performances on the night. Bullard and Waller both finished with 18 points and dished out seven and five assists respectively. Sayers contributed 20 points against his former club. Wells gave us double-digit scoring as well with 12 points and Marsden pulled down 11 big rebounds.

Sunday was also a successful day at the office for us as we came away with another much-needed win versus Cheshire Phoenix. We travelled to the Cheshire Oaks Arena to face a team that would present very different challenges to those of the Raiders on Friday.

Similarly to Friday, however, we got off to a promising start only to be trailing going into the half-time break (45-39). But it was the fourth quarter where we began to really take hold of the game, outscoring our opponents by 11 to close the game out and claim a 82-74 victory away from home.

Bullard was toying with a triple double stat line on Sunday night with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. While four other players put in double-figure scoring performances for the Force with Marsden, Waller, Sayers and Anebo finishing with 18, 16, 13 and 10 respectively. The on-court triumphs were not only had by the BBL side this weekend as Allerton High Force Academy earned themselves a superb win in the U18 National Cup. A fantastic team performance was what they needed as they faced the current National Cup holders, Manchester Magic, and they definitely showed why basketball in Leeds should not be taken lightly.

A monumental game from Leeds’ James Banton was undoubtedly the talking point as he finished the game with 42 points and 5 rebounds. Micah Savery Richards and Jaka Pandza both contributed generously with Richards having 14 points and 11 rebounds and Pandza adding 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Performances like these are not only confidence boosters for the players involved, but they are also something that will inspire even younger players to keep working. Myself and my team-mate, Clayfell Harris, had the opportunity recently to coach Year 7 and 8 at Allerton High and it reminded me how I felt at that age. It’s great to have such positive role models for them to look up to and aspire to be like.

Coming up this week in the BBL, we’ll be preparing for what is likely to be another exciting home game for the fans to see. We’ll be going up against Surrey Scorchers who will be looking for redemption for the last time they came to Leeds and left disappointed. At this point in the season, teams are trying to make a run going into Christmas and every win is just as important as the next.

We’re carrying over some momentum from the weekend just passed and can’t wait to see the Leeds Force fans on Friday 13 (unlucky for some) to help us maintain winning form.

Leeds Force coach Danny Nelson will be demanding more cohesion from his roster reckons captain Samuel Toluwase. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Samuel Toluwase: We were pulled apart after we lost focus