EAGLES GROUNDED AS MERSEY CRUISE INTO FINAL

Mersey Tigers stormed into the BBL Cup Final after picking up where they left off last season by humiliating arch rivals Newcastle Eagles 114-85 in another two legged semi-final rout to book a showdown with either Sheffield or Cheshire.

Having lost by seven points at Sport Central last Friday night in the first leg, the all round class of Great Britain stars Nate Reinking and Andrew Sullivan shone through this time as the duo combined for a monstrous and stunning 69 points to secure a comprehensive aggregate success.

The Eagles who were again without influential player-coach Fab Flournoy had no answer to the relentless and at times unstoppable Tigers offence as they picked the visitors apart in the second half.

In truth it was an ill-disciplined performance by the Eagles who had three players fouled out, no doubt frustrated by a catastrophic third quarter when Tigers blew the game open and brutally exposed their shortcomings.

In the early exchanges it was the visitors who edged ahead 9-5 but it proved a false dawn. Within a couple of minutes the home side had found some offensive rhythm and an 8-2 run put them in front before successful free-throws by Charles Smith tied things up at 13-13 approaching the midway point of the opening period.

It was still level at 19-19 when Kadiri Richard threw down a dunk for the visitors and then with 44 seconds left, a triple by Andre Lockhart looked to have given the Eagles the upper hand at 24-22.

Nate Reinking hit a game-high 39 points for Mersey

However as Flournoy’s men were soon to find out, Reinking had other ideas and he scored four of his game-high 39 points to ensure the Tigers were 26-24 in front after the first quarter.

There was little between the teams during the second period and with 90 seconds left until the interval, a score by Richard levelled matters at 44-44.

Once again the Tigers had the last say in the period as Sullivan finished the scoring for the half with a dunk to put his new team 48-46 ahead as the team left the court.

Whatever was said in the Eagles locker room didn’t work as the visitors imploded in embarrassing fashion during the third period. They crumbled right from the restart and within three minutes were down by 9 points at 57-48 after a Reinking triple.

Two free-throws by Sullivan – who hit 30 by the finish – put Tigers 66-51 in front as the nightmare quarter continued to unfold for the Eagles and their misery was complete when a triple by David Aliu helped the home team to a 78-62 lead heading into the final ten minutes of action.

However any thoughts of a miraculous comeback were soon in tatters as the hosts stretched their advantage to a commanding 20 point margin at 87-67 with the misfiring Eagles backcourt unable to match the production of Reinking.

Foul trouble them made things impossible for the Eagles who began to lose their cool with Trey Moore receiving a technical as he fouled out against his former club hot on the heels of forwards Darius Defoe and Richard.

Smith scored 30 to pace Newcastle.

The Tigers will now have to wait to find out who they will face in the 2011 Final with last year’s finalists Sheffield and Cheshire both battling it out to secure back to back appearances at the event.

Lead image: Graham Virtue

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