Leeds Force prevailed against Surrey Scorchers (74-69) in BBL Championship action on Friday night to claim their second straight win and bring their record to 2-3 on the season.
Once again, the Carnegie Sports Arena was bursting with boisterous cheers from Leeds Force fans, propelling them to an epic victory.
The contest was a thrilling display of grit and determination by Leeds, who were undaunted by the 16 lead changes and 13 times the game was tied.
American D’Andre Bullard had an extraordinary debut for Leeds, scoring at will in the first half, hustling after offensive rebounds, and finding team-mates for scores. The aggressive play by Leeds resulted in a half-time lead of 33-32.
The third quarter has recently been a strength for the home side, coming out with guns blazing on the offensive end of the court. Louis Sayers picked up right where he left off last game for the Force and made it rain from the outside with an offensive assault on the Scorchers.
Surrey would not call it quits and proceeded to level the game following a 14-4 run. The fourth quarter began tied 60-60 and would provide a dramatic and tense finale to decide the contest.
A climactic final two minutes of the game began with the Force gaining a one-point lead with a three-point jump shot by Dwayne Camille. Surrey wasted no time getting the ball to their best player, regaining the lead by one with a two-point fade-away foul-line jumper by Tayo Ogedengbe.
Camille seems to relish high-pressure situations and desires the ball in his hand when the game is on the line. Former Leeds player, Henry Wilkins, committed a costly foul on Camille’s three-point field goal attempt, sending him to the foul line for three shots. Cool, calm, and collected, Camille sank all three shots with beaming confidence. This put the home team up 69-67 with one minute left in the action.
After two made free throws by Surrey, the game was back knotted at 69-all going into the closing 40 seconds. Bullard, who made his presence known to both opponents and screaming fans, let his skills shine one last time on the day with a magnificent no-look underhand pass to captain Armand Anebo, who finessed the ball through the hoop for a 71-69 advantage.
Clutch defensive play by Kwan Waller caused a steal and the split of a pair of free throws, resulting in Leeds leading 72-69 with 15 seconds remaining. The subsequent time-out provided Force players with an effective defensive tactic for the final possession by coaches Matt Newby and Samit Nuruzade.
The strategy worked as Surrey were forced into a tough shot when (who else but) Camille came out with the decisive defensive rebound and clutch 2-for-2 from the foul line, clinching the game for Leeds.
Rob Marsden was outstanding for Leeds, collecting a colossal 17 rebounds along with eight points and two assists.
This was Anebo’s seasonal debut after missing some time with an injury, and his presence was pivotal in the resulting victory.
Sayers finished the game with 17 points, including 4/7 from three-point-land. Bullard impressed with a final stat line of 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Leeds Force valued their possessions, committing only seven turnovers and shooting the ball 81 times compared to the visitors 60 attempts.
Leeds will complete their three-game home stand this Friday when perennial powerhouse Leicester Riders come into town.
The Force will be looking for support from the crowd on Friday night before rounding off the weekend on Sunday at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.