Despite the loss of influential forward Sam Attah just one week ago, Leeds added yet another top-five scalp to their tally, this time against fourth-placed Cheshire Phoenix.
Without Attah’s 14.8 and Will Hall’s (Back) 14.9 points per game, James McCann and Darrel Bethune picked up the slack to combine for 46 points.
Despite Cheshire starting the game quickly and racing out to a 10-5 lead after four minutes, Force went on a 12-0 run of their own, with Bethune contributing six points.
A late burst from Phoenix was halted with a buzzer-beating jump shot from Diez to close the first quarter 21-17.
The solid opening quarter gave Leeds a whole lot of confidence, and came out firing in the second quarter.
Using a 15-3 run to finish the first half, Leeds were comfortably in front with a 40-27 lead.
In what has always been our worst quarter, another slow start to the second half, gave Cheshire a glimmer of hope, closing the gap to just five points after three minutes, forcing a Leeds timeout.
In the timeout our coaches stressed the importance of our defence if we wanted to win this game.
That’s exactly what we did. Every single person took pride in their defence and restricted them leading to some easy offence.
With the baskets flowing, Leeds powered on to a 16-point lead thanks to a buzzer-beating three from McCann.
After a back-and-forth start to the final quarter, Mikulic came up with a huge three pointer to give us an incredible 21-point lead with seven-and-a-half minutes left to play.
The game looked decided, but with Leeds attempts to slow the game down backfired horrifically and Cheshire made a run, bringing the deficit down to just one point going into the final minute of play.
Leeds were searching for someone to take control of the game, and McCann stepped up to the plate with every confidence, hitting a huge fade-away jump shot with 22 seconds left to play.
In a tactical move, Leeds fouled with 18 seconds left to play to send Cheshire to the line. After making both in an effort to win the ball back, they also fouled to send McCann to the free throw line at the other end.
Making just one of two, DiNunno was left with one more chance to be the hero and complete the dramatic comeback.
However, a great defensive phase from the whole team left him with a desperation shot over Bethune that came up short.
Mikulic secured the rebound and also gave Leeds Force their first-ever win over a top-four team.
The result sent shockwaves through the league and even gained some coverage in the national press.
So, despite the team sitting close to the bottom of the table, don’t count them out just yet.
There are just nine games left to play and I’m sure there are plenty of surprises left in store for the BBL community.
Leeds Force are now only four games behind eighth place, by no means is it a certainty but it is definitely possible if the team continues with the same form as Sunday.
Either way it is going to be an exciting finish to the season that I encourage anyone that hasn’t already to come down and enjoy the best basketball West Yorkshire has to offer.
Our next home game is against the favourites to win the League, Newcastle Eagles (Friday, March 6, 7.30pm tip) and should be a thriller.
Can the Force overpower the BBL Cup Champions?