Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles will meet in the BBL Championship play-off final at Wembley on Sunday after comfortable semi-final victories over the weekend.
Regular season champions Riders had double digit wins in both legs of their tie against Marjon Plymouth Raiders to progress to the title game with a 156-126 aggregate success, while Eagles had a massive first leg win as they defeated Surrey Heat 202-178 on aggregate.
Wembley’s showpiece game will be a repeat of last season’s final which Eagles won to complete a clean sweep of silverware, while Riders will look to emulate their BBL Cup final victory against Eagles in January and collect their third trophy in the most successful season in their history.
Eagles’ player-coach Fabulous Flournoy was delighted to be in the title game again: “We are happy to have navigated through the play-offs. I think we would have felt like we had missed out with the final taking play at Wembley again.
“We really jumped on them on Friday night and then came out and played an excellent first quarter tonight. After that I felt we were always in control of the tie.”
Eagles certainly controlled their home leg of the tie against Heat, and the Surrey side were hammered 110-82 at Sport Central on Friday night. 31 points from Damon Huffman, ably assisted by another 30 point-haul from Charles Smith, was enough to help the Eagles on their way to the comfortable victory. A 20-4 run early in the second period put Eagles in command, and they outscored the visitors 38-18 in the quarter to take command of the tie with a 110-82 victory.
In the return, a dominant opening quarter saw Eagles lead 34-21 at the first break as extend their aggregate lead to 41, and although Heat fought back to win 96-92 on the night, there was nothing they could do to prevent the Eagles reaching the final. Smith led the Eagles with 25, while Frank Holmes poured in an impressive 35 for the Heat.
Meanwhile, Friday saw Riders return from the south-west with an 80-66 victory against the Raiders. A strong second quarter from Rob Paternostro’s helped them open up a 44-34 half-time lead, but the Raiders came back at them in the third period and managed to trim the deficit back to just six points at 53-59 heading into the final stanza.
The final period saw both sides vying for that all-important advantage heading into the second leg, but it was Riders who secured a victory in the end thanks in no small part to the efforts of Anthony Rowe (pictured) and Zaire Taylor as they each bagged 18 points in the victory.
On Sunday, Raiders started well and led by a single point on aggregate at half-time in the second leg, but a blistering third period saw Gavin Love’s side blown away as the Riders went on a 26-4 run to regain the initiative, and they never looked back to seal a third final appearance this season with a 76-60 victory.