Newcastle Eagles have completed the clean sweep. Again. Fab Flournoy’s men came from behind to defeat Leicester Riders 71-62 in the BBL play-off final at the NIA.
Charles Smith, the game’s Most Valuable Player, had 21 points and 9 rebounds as the Tyneside outfit rebounded from trailing by 13 in the first half to storm back to level at 31-31 at the break.
And an 11-0 run saw Newcastle surge clear as Leicester’s challenge faded away.
“This group just had a point to prove all season because of what we’ve gone through,” Eagles coach Fab Flournoy admitted. “It became important for us to establish ourselves again as a dominant team. In the years we did it before, we were young and we were talented.
“We knew we were good and we wanted to show it. This season, we did a lot of preparation and a lot of planning but there’s a lot of old legs. But we did it.”
The early stages were tight with Eagles shading the match 6-5 after two minutes and 10-9 after five before 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.
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.
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