Newcastle Eagles 63 (12,31,51) (Levan 19, Stewart/Flournoy 14)
Marshall MK Lions 72 (18,33,53) (Brown 17, Williams 13, New/Youngblood 12)
It was a tight opening to the game, with both teams struggling to make their shots. However, Lions enjoyed more success and led 11-4 early on. Eagles suffered an early scare as Lynard Stewart fell awkwardly, seeming to land on his neck. After a short delay for treatment Eagles resumed action and Stewart would later rejoin his team-mates seemingly none the worse. Eagles were re-energised and found some scoring accuracy to reduce the arrears to three points, but Lions responded to close out the quarter leading 12-18.
In the second stanza Eagles gradually narrowed the gap and a Steve Levan three pointer, with 1.42 left on the clock, made it a one-point game at 32-31 to Lions. Tony Windless re-established a two-point advantage at the mid-way point from the line, to leave the game neatly poised.
Lions came out fastest in the second half, hitting the first seven points to lead 40-31, before two Levan foul shots broke their run. Lions established a double-digit lead on the back of shots from the charity stripe, including two Robert Youngblood free throws, given following an unsportsmanlike foul given against the Eagles.
With Lions 48-35 to the good Charles Smith hit a much-needed three for Newcastle and Levan followed suit shortly after to cut the gap to seven points at 48- 41. It was the start of a 16-5 tear for Eagles and it could have been more had their final shot not rimmed out.
An early three pointer got Lions back on track at the start of the fourth quarter. Kevin Griffin and Yorick Williams showed their long range shooting prowess and helped Milton Keynes to a 65-55 lead. Eagles’ player/coach led by example, scoring six of the next eight points to bring Newcastle back to within two points at 65-63. However, with 30 seconds to go Flournoy fouled out and Babalola followed soon after. It was left to the Lions to seal their success from the foul line and book their first ever Play-off Final berth.
Terrell Brown led Lions scoring with 17 personal points, ably assisted by Robert Youngblood’s double double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. Steve Levan led all scorers – he bagged 19 for the Eagles to no avail.
BBL Championship Play-off Semi Final
Guildford Heat 81 (21-42,62) (Harrison 21, Dorsey 13, Martin 12)
Kularoos Plymouth Raiders 66 (12,30,49) (Moore 25, Lasker 10, Durham 9)
As in the first semi-final, both teams started slowly, but it was Guildford who took the early advantage. A James’ Jones three pointer saw the Heat take an 11-4 lead. He hit a second three pointer later in the quarter, before Mike Martin established a double digit lead at 18-8. Andrew Lasker kept the Raiders in touch with six successful free throws, but EJ Harrison stretched the lead still further with a late three to lead 21-12 at the end of the opening quarter..
Plymouth had the greater offensive threat early in the second quarter and a James Noel bucket cut the gap to just two points at 24-22 to Guildford. The teams traded baskets thereafter, but the Heat’s scoring came largely in the form of three pointers from Daniel Wardrope and EJ Harrison, the latter bagging one on the buzzer as Guildford led 42-30 at half- time.
Guildford’s long range shooting continued to serve them well in the third quarter – James Jones and Danny Gilbert getting in on the act as the lead was extended to 51-34. But for Gaylon Moore and Plymouth’s deficit could have been greater.
Allister Gall gave the Raiders’ faithful something to cheer about with an excellent three pointer later in the third stanza, but the Heat still led 60-49.
Guildford’s domination continued in the fourth period and they gradually extended their advantage to 19 points at 73-54 and though Plymouth’s effort level never wavered, they could find no way back.
Gaylon Moore led all scorers with 25 personal points for Plytmouth, while EJ Harrison led the way for Guildford with 21 points.
Also in action on Saturday, there was an Under-16 Junior International game between England and Ireland, which saw England finish victorious by a score line of 72-44.