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Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Underdogs Leicester lift trophy
Leicester coach Billy Mims celebrates another trophy
Celebration time for Leicester coach Billy Mims
Leicester Riders 84-75 Sheffield Sharks

Leicester Riders have won the British Basketball League Championship Trophy after beating Sheffield Sharks at Wembley.

The Riders were written off as no-hopers at the start of the season, but under the stewardship of former London Leopards head coach Billy Mims, the unfashionable Midlands outfit have been a revelation.

They upset the formbook to beat the Leopards and lift the National Cup in January, using the victory as a springboard to reach the play-offs.

Thrilling victories over Chester Jets and Southern Conference winners London Towers secured an improbable title shot.

And another battling display on Saturday capped what truly has been a fairytale season.

A match-winning performance by Leicester Riders Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson claimed the MVP award
It was the Riders who drew first blood, Billy Singleton showing great strength to drop one in from under the basket.

Mims had warned his side about Sheffield's three-point shooting and the danger was there for all to see as Terrell Myers landed the first of the afternoon's big shots moments later.

There were signs of nerves early on for Leicester, Singleton and Malcolm Leak both missing from the free-throw line.

The opening period was predictably tight but Sheffield led 24-15 at the first-quarter buzzer.

Another three-pointer from Richard Windle extended his side's advantage to 28-18 and only a couple of quick scores by Ralph Blalock prevented Sheffield from moving into a commanding lead with around seven minutes left to half-time.

Frantic pace

Both sides picked up the pace and the baskets were going in thick and fast, yet the Sharks still kept a comfortable cushion.

Then with 6:57 left in the quarter, a massive basket from guard Larry Johnson tied the scores at 46-46, before the Riders moved ahead for the first time since early in the opening quarter.

There was nothing to chose between the two sides now with the game moving at a frantic pace, but the Riders had their tails up and another six-point tear saw them open up a 57-52 lead with the clock on 3:11.

Iain McKinney thought he had landed a three-pointer right on the buzzer, but the match officials waved it off, leaving Leicester with a 64-57 lead going into the final 10 minutes of BBL action in the 2000/2001 season.

Two baskets from outside the arc from Blalock gave the Riders a 10-point advantage, but that lasted only a few moments as Sheffield, one of the best passing teams in the league, pulled it back to 63-69 with just under seven-and-a-half minutes left.

An animated Mims found himself called for a technical foul after encroaching onto the playing area with 6:31 left, McKinney making only one of the possible two points from the line.

Glory

Sheffield were now in the ascendancy and cut the deficit to 68-70 at one point, but were not finding their three-point range and the Riders began to sense an upset.

After some great defensive play, Singleton netted on the break to put his side 76-68 to the good and with 2:26 left to play,

Chris Finch called a time-out to try and get his side back on track for the only title which has eluded him, as both player and coach.

Former Leicester man Nate Reinking landed a big hit to pull it back to 77-71 with 1:47 left, only for Payne to miss a double chance from the foul line moments later.

With both teams in some foul trouble, veteran Peter Scantlebury showed them all how it should be done, netting twice from the line.

There were only now 59 seconds to play and Mims took the opportunity to rally his men for one final push towards championship glory.

Leicester ran down the clock and became the first eighth-seed to lift the BBL Championship Trophy.

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See also:

04 May 01 |  Other Sports
BBL Championship final preview
18 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Riders hope for smooth journey
07 Jan 01 |  Other Sports
Leicester riding high
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