BBL Championship Play-off Final
Newcastle Eagles 71 (12,31,56) (Smith 21, Gause 13, Defoe 10)
Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders 62 (21,31,49) (Sullivan 18, Hardy 12, Wierzbicki 11)
Newcastle Eagles made it a clean sweep of all four British Basketball League trophies with a 71-62 victory over Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders in the play-off final at the NIA in Birmingham.
The Eagles had trailed by double-digits in the second quarter but were once again inspired by the defensive presence of player-coach Fab Flournoy (8 points and 13 rebounds) to come roaring back. Riders had finished second behind Eagles during the league campaign and they performed well in the first half but had no answer for the strength of Newcastle during the third and fourth quarters.
The early stages were tight with Eagles shading the match 6-5 after two minutes and 10-9 after five before the BBL’s MVP Joe Chapman picked up his second foul. Chapman would go on to score just 10 points. It seemed to affect the Eagles as Riders went on a 13-2 burst up to the end of the first quarter, with a Drew Sullivan dunk being the exclamation point in the burst.
Leading 21-12 after 10 minutes the Riders made it a 10 point game early in the second quarter as a Newcastle turnover was converted by Ayron Hardy. But the Eagles hadn’t already collected three trophies through luck as Flournoy led his team on the defensive end.
Darius Defoe brought it back to a one point lead before Cameron Rundles made two from the line to give Riders a 31-28 advantage. However Defoe had the last word of the half as his slam made it 31-31.
The Eagles surge was soon forgotten by Leicester as they scored the first six points of the third quarter. But Newcastle responded straight away as Paul Gause’s steal and lay up capped a run that gave them a 40-37 lead.
And then a dunk by veteran Charles Smith (pictured) made it a five point lead for Eagles. Smith turned in a vintage performance to end the game with a high of 21 points to scoop the Most Valuable Player award. Riders worked hard to stay in the match and Jamell Anderson split two at the line to bring the lead back down to one.
However, Newcastle pulled away late in the quarter to take a 56-49 margin into the final stanza.
Eagles defence was summed by Rundles making his first field goal of the match with 8.20 left in the game to reduce the gap to five. Rundles worked hard but nothing would fall for him as he went one of 10 from the field for just four points.
Newcastle were firmly in control when Andrew Thomson nailed a three to make it a 10 point lead with 5.10 to play.
Riders never managed to get a run together as poor shooting from the free throw line cost them time and again. Bradd Wierzbicki and Rundles both came up empty from the charity stripe when they could have reduced the Eagles lead to just four points if both had been successful.
And when Rundles fouled out with 73 seconds to play and the score 67-57 the game was truly up.