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BASKETBALL: Lionheart Lloyd KOs Bullets bid for glory.


THAMES VALLEY 85 PERTEMPS BULLETS 99 PERTEMPS Bullets' Championship play-off dreams were shot down last night by former player Nigel Lloyd.

Bullets did all they could with an emphatic victory at Thames Valley, but player-coach Lloyd led his Milton Keynes Lions to the fourth place in the Southern Conference and the final slot for the Play-off quarter-finals beginning on Saturday at Coventry's Skydome.

Bullets go to Brighton Bears for this afternoon's final game of the regular season, having failed to qualify for the Play-offs for the first time in the club's history.

And 40-year-old veteran Lloyd, the on-court mastermind of Bullets' Wembley triumphs in 1996 and 1998, was the mastermind last night of a comeback performance which gave the Lions a 74-70 win at London Leopards.

Leopards led until the final four minutes and when Lions' Jermain Brown and Leopards' Rod Brown traded three-pointers the scores were tied on 70-70 with 20 seconds to play.

Then Leopards' Rico Alderson was called for an unsportsmanlike foul and Lions' Andrew Alleyne sealed victory from the free throw line. All Bullets could do last night was to ensure they won. They knew they were in the last chance saloon - and came out blazing to lead from the start against the bottom club in the Southern Conference.

The Bullets were 30-24 up at the end of the first quarter, then silenced a typically raucous Bracknell crowd with runs of 7-0 and 10-0 in the second quarter to lead 57-41, before the ragged Tigers scored the last four points of the first half.

Bullets did most damage from guard position. Rob Paternostro ignored the pain from an elbow injury to lead his team with 25 points, backed by 22 from Rashod Johnson and 18 from Antonio Garcia. Former Bullets' centre Shawn Jamison led the resistance with a game-high 26 points for the Tigers. But Bullets were unstoppable and another 7-0 run opened up their biggest lead of the game at 94-70 with five minutes to play. But it was all for nothing, and today Bullets will face a Bears team fired up by the chance to win the Southern Conference title, after they defeated Northern Conference champions Chester Jets 95-87 last night. That win means that if the Bears beat the Bullets today and leaders London Towers lose their final game against third-placed Leopards, Brighton will leapfrog to the top of the table.

Lions qualify from the South with the Towers, Bear and Leopards. Chester, Sheffield Sharks, Newcastle Eagles and Edinburgh Rocks qualify from the North. Bullets end their season with a 'dead' North European League fixture against the Towers at the Aston Villa Basketball Centre on Wednesday (7.0). Neither can qualify for the semi-finals as Bullets' 80-67 defeat against Polonio Warbud in Poland last Wednesday ensured the Poles will go through.


LEADING LIGHT... Rob Paternosto
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2002
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