LEEDS FORCE lost their last game of 2016 as they went down in a high-scoring game at Leicester Riders.
Having already lost the series 2-0 it was about restoring some pride for the Force and they certainly did that.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Force to take the points away from the Riders on their own patch.
They started quickly and strongly as they matched Leicester in attack and defence as they opened a six-point lead early on thanks to triples from Jermaine Sanders and Jack Isenbarger.
Leeds were quick in attack, shooting before Leicester had a chance to get set in defence which was an effective tactic, but difficult to maintain for the full 40 minutes.
Leicester’s full-court press started to take effect late in the quarter as they strangled the Force and edged into the lead.
A late eight-point run in the final minute of the quarter gave the hosts a five-point lead at 24-19.
In the second, the Riders used the pace in their side to their advantage as they were untouchable in transition.
The points started to dry up for the Force as they added just 10 to their score as the Riders opened up a lead of 13 at the break .
Leeds started flat in the third as they allowed the Riders to go on a 9-0 run, before coach Matt Newby reinvigorated his side with a time-out.
Sanders took the game by the scruff of the neck as he came up with seven points, coupled with two triples from Eddie Matthews.
Leicester pushed further ahead in the last minute as they went on 7-0 run to hold a 19-point lead going into the final quarter.
The game then opened up as both sides attacked the glass. Leicester found the basket with more regularity than the Force as they saw out the game.
Sanders top-scored with 23 points as he pushed the Force up the scoreboard. Rob Marsden was the only other Leeds player to get into double figures as he added 15 points to the total.
Sheffield Sharks held on late in the game to overcome London Lions 77-76 at the Copper Box Arena, strengthening their grip on fourth place with a fifth consecutive win.
Malcolm Riley was the inspiration for Sharks, leading all scorers with 23 points after 71 per cent shooting from the field and a perfect 9/9 from the free-throw line.
But Sharks, boasting an impressive 78 per cent win rate over Lions in their 82 BBL meetings, were in an early hole as an 8-0 tear, capped by a Kai Williams three-pointer, put the hosts up 20-12.
The visitors came back to level the game at 30 after a 15-5 start to the second stanza, with Rashawn Rembert connecting from long-range before Riley was fouled shooting a three of his own, making all of the free-throws.
The tie was only broken on the half-time buzzer by a pair of Zaire Taylor free-throws, and Lions were back up 52-45 after a trio of early third quarter dunks from Rashad Hassan.
Sharks eventually got in front when Riley hit six in an 11-2 push, making the score 56-54; and they led by seven heading into the decisive fourth period when Rembert scored twice on the fast break.
And Sheffield looked to have it wrapped up in the fourth quarter when Zach Gachette stole the ball and broke away for a dunk, before the lead reached double-digits at 77-66 on a Riley score with just under four minutes to play.
But they had to hold on down the stretch, as that would be the last time that they scored. Hassan made consecutive baskets to spark the late Lions’ surge and they were back to within one when Taylor scored approaching the final minute.
But it was he who missed on the buzzer, leaving London adrift of the top four with a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions.