Leeds Force came out on top against the Manchester Giants as they ran out 71-81 winners in a significant weekend at the bottom of the BBL table.
The pair occupied the last two places in the table on eight points; the winner would keep alive their play-off hopes alive.
Leeds held the lead from beginning to end. Force dominated the first quarter, taking a lead and never looking back. Manchester kept pace in the opening minutes as Force tried to pull away.
When Leeds did pull away from the Giants it was a one-man show as 14 points from Eddie Matthew single-handedly put Force in control. Three triples in a row from the guard saw the Force jump to a double-digit lead. Only a basket from Sam Lane ended the run.
Manchester responded quickly in the second as they went on a 9-0 run themselves. Samuel Toluwase fired in six of his eight points in that run.
Coach Matt Newby called a timeout, which brought an end to the Giants’ run with Leeds finding the basket through captain Armand Anebo. That basket started a 12-0 run from Force which saw their lead go from as little as two points up to double digits. Jerelle Okoro’s basket just before the buzzer brought it to a nine-point game at the halfway stage.
Giants tried hard early in the third to reduce the lead but Force went on 6-0 run to push the lead back up to 11.
Giants got the lead down to just seven going into the final 10 minutes. Okoro then sank two triples between an Anebo basket to make it a three-point game which led to a timeout.
That timeout galvanised Force as Rob Sandoval and Isenbarger sank two huge triples to restore a nine-point lead. Harold Trobo then produced five points to make Leeds concentrate right to the end but on his return to Manchester Rob Marsden came up with two baskets to stop the Giants’ momentum.
Sandoval then backed up Marsden with a basket and two successful free throws to give the Force a lead of 10.
And Force saw out the game and a win that could be an important series, 2-0.