A spirited Leeds Force faded late and cruelly slipped to another BBL defeat on Friday night, losing out 76-59 against Bristol Flyers at SGS WISE Arena, writes SEB GIGNER.
An incredible contest erupted into life in a tense first quarter with Kosovan international Gazmend Sinani giving Bristol a glimpse of what was to come with nine unanswered points inside the first 10 minutes of action.
Injury-hit Leeds looked to have fallen by the wayside after a surge of Bristol momentum led by Flyers’ American star Brandon Boggs fired the home team into a double-digit lead – before a sensational triple from Force marksman George Brownell silenced SGS WISE Arena and hauled the visitors back in touching distance.
A revitalised Leeds showed a steely determination that had largely been missing all season, clawing the play-off-chasing Bristol back before a basket at the buzzer from Roy Owen punctured their momentum heading into half-time.
Second-half collapses have been a constant theme of Force’s season, but Danny Nelson’s brave battlers instead launched a relentless attack of the Bristol basket to begin a closely-contested third segment. Three straight scores from Sinani, Brownell and club captain Isaac Mourier sliced the deficit down and kept the Flyers grounded as Force began to threaten to land one of the shocks of the season.
Adam Weary’s five-point burst looked to have ended Force’s scoring streak, before a timely buzzer-beating shot from Mo Williams kept Leeds’ hopes of victory alive with a quarter remaining.
Bristol upped the tempo and turned to their bench arsenal to stave off Force’s threat, restoring a double-digit lead through Boggs’ soaring slam only for Leeds to fight back again.
An immense attacking onslaught saw Brownell, Aidan Appleyard and Vytautas Kamarunas hit trebles to cut the gap to seven with five minutes on the clock to visibly stun a capacity Bristol crowd.
Flyers’ extra numbers eventually told however as fatigue bested Force and helped Bristol ease clear with a string of baskets in the waning moments, as a valiant Leeds suffered late heart-break.