Eagles complete clean sweep
|Eagles complete second clean sweep in four years with outstanding display at The O2….
BBL Play-off Final
Newcastle Eagles underlined their dominance of the British Basketball League by completing a second clean sweep in four years with a 96-84 defeat of London Lions in the BBL Play-off Final at The O2 on Sunday.
Eagles rode out a hot start from the hometown Lions, spurred on by a record crowd of 14,700, to seize control with an excellent all-round display capped by a 23-point, nine-assist and six-rebound MVP performance from Rahmon Fletcher.
Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan led Vince Macaulay’s men with a game-high 27 points, but it was not enough to deny the all-conquering Eagles.
Fab Flournoy’s side had already claimed the BBL Cup, Trophy and Championship to make their injured player-coach the most decorated coach in the competition’s history.
But they overwhelmed Lions with superior efficiency and control in the key moments to become the first team to secure three clean sweeps.
The contest began at a tempo befitting the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd an 8-0 run Lions, including two triples from Sullivan soon opened up a 10-point lead. But Flournoy’s men responded with Drew Lasker providing a surge from the bench.
The teams began the second period tied at 24, but as Sullivan’s hot hand cooled, league MVP Smith once again demonstrated why he is the man for the big occasion and a toe-to-toe battle began to develop.
The 39-year-old connected from all over the floor and as his team-mates turned up the defensive pressure, Eagles were able to get out and run, taking control as their opponents appeared ever-more ragged.
This pattern continued in the early stages of the second half, and Eagles’ grip on the contest as Fletcher orchestrated his team’s offence.
The influence of 2014 Play-off final MVP Zaire Taylor, however, was limited and the Newcastle club’s defence – enthusiastic and experienced in equal measure – prevented any penetration into the paint.
The game began to get away from Lions, despite Rod Brown’s best efforts and a short-lived full-court press.
Eagles punctuated their dominance with a buzzer-beater inbounds alley-oop, finished by Martin to open a 74-55 advantage.
Lions needed Taylor to be a catalyst for the comeback, and he scored the first six points of the final period, but Eagles never appeared in danger of relinquishing their lead – even when a Makal Stibbins and-one play pulled Lions within 10 with four minutes to play.
Smith finished with 24 points and Darius Defoe added 18 while Makal finished with 17 in a losing effort.