BBL Cup Final
Leicester Riders 72 (14,32,58) (Couisnard 18, Sullivan 16, Calvo 13)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 69 (20,37,49) (Smith 27, Cooke 13, Martin 12)
A packed 9,000 fans at the National Indoor Arena were treated to another BBL Cup classic as holders Leicester Riders retained their trophy after Drew Sullivan inspired a thrilling 72-69 success against Esh Group Eagles Newcastle.
Down by 67-56 points with just over four minutes remaining, the Great Britain captain showed his class by scoring 11 points in a row to bring Riders back from the dead in a dramatic finale. He eventually finished with a double-double 16 points and 10 boards to deservedly land the MVP award.
The loss was particularly tough on Charles Smith who fired 27 points for the losing team and had an opportunity to force overtime with the last shot of the game, but he just couldn’t get it to drop.
Without injured playmaker Anthony Downing, Riders suffered an early blow when back-up point guard Jorge Calvo picked up two quick fouls and Eagles took advantage with a spectacular dunk by Scott Martin nudging them ahead.
Paul Gause played a big cameo in the Eagles’ 2012 Final success and he put his team 13-7 in front, only for in-form forward Rashad Hassan to hit back for Riders with back-to-back scores in the paint.
Leicester were stone cold from downtown and in contrast, Charles Smith fired a big three-pointer to keep the Eagles in the ascendency at 20-14 at the end of the first period.
Jay Couisnard walked off with the MVP award in the 2013 final and he helped Riders storm back, flushing down a dunk and after Eagles had ominously increased their lead to 28-19.
Sullivan also dunked impressively for the holders before they finally found their perimeter game as Couisnard and Calvo converted from outside to cut the Eagles’ lead to 37-32 heading to the locker room.
Baskets were at a premium when the action resumed, with the Eagles encountering foul trouble but still keeping their noses in front after some dazzling moves to the basket by Gause.
Smith also began to turn the screw with continued success from long-range and when Martin threw down another big jam to make it 56-45 to complete a 7-0 run, it suddenly looked a long way back for Riders.
However, there was to be an epic twist as Paul Gause fouled out with six minutes to play and it proved a major turning point as Sullivan and Co turned the entire contest firmly on its’ head.
Sullivan came alive and as Riders cranked up the defence to revive their hopes, as a triple by Calvo put them in front as Couisnard held his nerve from the free-throw line in the dying seconds to complete a famous comeback.