Newcastle Eagles had already sewn up the Championship leaving just a few matters to be sorted out on the final day as three teams battled for the final two spots. Plymouth were the team to miss out after losing to Sheffield and seeing Durham and Manchester both win to make the post-season for the first time.
Here is a run through of each team’s fortunes this season in order of league position as well as some awards.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES (28-5)
The best teams always find a way to produce their best when it matters and the Eagles are no stranger to performing in big games. Fab Flournoy’s men won their last 11 to clinch a record sixth BBL Championship and 18th piece of silverware in the player-coach’s reign. After losing the BBL Cup Final, Newcastle compiled an 18-2 record in all competitions which included a quarter-final defeat to Worcester in the Trophy. In their run-in, they defeated both Leicester and Worcester on the road as well as beating Sheffield at Sport Central in what was arguably the ‘title decider’. They coped well without influential star Joe Chapman from recent years with a strong squad full of scorers led by Malik Cooke, who finished as the league’s fourth highest points scorer (662) averaging 20.1 ppg.
SHEFFIELD SHARKS (27-6)
Re-signing BJ Holmes a few weeks into the season turned out to be crucial for the Sharks. The American point guard had another great season producing some moments of brilliance including a buzzer-beating triple to defeat Newcastle and keep Sheffield’s title hopes alive. Atiba Lyons was able to retain most of last season’s squad with the addition of Patrick Horstmann and they exceeded expectations by challenging for the title throughout the season before falling short at the end. Captain Mike Tuck led by example once again helping his side to their best league finish since 2010.
WORCESTER WOLVES (27-6)
A sustained title challenge dipped towards the end with home defeats against the top two but history was made as Paul James’ side claimed their first BBL honours with victory in the BBL Trophy, beating Glasgow in the Final at the Emirates Arena. Smart acquisitions in the summer turned the Wolves into title contenders and they enhanced that mantle with a strong start to the season with a perfect seven wins from seven. Zaire Taylor joined from treble-winners Leicester while the re-signed Alex Owumi and American centre Will Creekmore helped form a domiannt ‘big 3′ which was ably backed up by a strong supporting cast including Trophy Final MVP Jamal Williams.
LEICESTER RIDERS (23-10)
Defending a Championship is never easy, let alone three trophies but the Riders gave it a go and may have got even closer to the top three had it not been for injuries. Anthony Rowe was ruled out of the season in February with a ruptured patellar tendon while Anthony Downing had a spell on the sidelines with a jaw injury. Despite their troubles, Rob Paternostro’s side were able to add a fourth trophy to their cabinet after winning the BBL Cup again after Drew Sullivan inspired a fourth quarter comeback to defeat Newcastle.
CHESHIRE PHOENIX (18-15)
It took some time and quite a few players to do so before John Lavery was happy with his side and Phoenix transformed into one of the strongest teams in the league in the second half of the season. The signing of Victor Moses was pivotal and the 24-year-old went on to top the points and rebounds averages charts with an impressive 23.5ppg and 13.1rpg. Reggie Middleton and Dominique Coleman survived the mass exodus to become key figures which helped Cheshire to a BBL Trophy semi-final, which they lost against Glasgow.
LONDON LIONS (16-17)
Moving into the Copper Box Arena was viewed as a great sign for things to come in the BBL and Vince Macaulay’s side were inspired in the first few months resulting in arguably the most competitive start to a season in BBL history. However, despite the addition of Chez Marks to join experienced veterans such as Mike Martin, Rod Brown and Julius Joseph, the Lions dropped off the pace and even found themselves over-taken by the surging Phoenix. Form will be a concern ahead of the play-offs with just two wins from their last eleven.
MANCHESTER GIANTS (14-19)
Their play-off fate went right down to the wire once again but this time they were able to avenge their heartbreak of 12 months ago by beating the Lions on this occasion and making the post-season. Despite a strong squad, made up primarily of British players with the exception of Spaniard Iker Amuchaestegui, the Giants made a poor start to the season and after a shock defeat against Surrey, their play-off hopes were in doubt with a 5-14 record. However, a strong finish ensued they crept in even without key star David Aliu for a number of important games in the run-in.
DURHAM WILDCATS (14-19)
Dave Elderkin stepped down in the summer presenting Lee Davie with the opportunity of making history by guiding the Wildcats into the play-offs for the first time and he duly obliged. A rare feat in basketball, but the same roster was used throughout the season with a competitive squad led in scoring by former Rock Danny Huffor while player-assistant Ralph Bucci provided plenty of experience. Their quest went right down to the final weekend and back-to-back wins over Birmingham and Cheshire coupled with Plymouth’s defeat, sealed their spot in the post-season at the third time of asking.
PLYMOUTH RAIDERS (14-19)
A turbulent season which began just a matter of weeks before the season got underway with Gavin Love dismissed as head-coach leaving academy boss Jay Marriott to inherit a roster he had not chosen. Inevitable cuts were made and this proved to be a constant situation throughout the season as Marriott attempted to find his ‘right fit’. The controversial release of sharp-shooter Trevor Setty coincided with an untimely slump in form. The Raiders still had their play-off fate in their own hands on the final weekend before losing that right with a loss at home to Sheffield. They have now missed out on the post-season in four of their ten seasons in the BBL.
GLASGOW ROCKS (13-20)
When Glasgow picked up Daniel Northern and Chez Marks in the off-season there were high hopes that the Rocks could challenge for silverware and a top-4 league finish. What wasn’t envisaged was that they would be playing their final league game having already been eliminated from play-off contention. This was a situation that ensued and takes away from the success story of reaching the BBL Trophy Final. Marks was released early on in favour of the more defence capable Alex Marcotullio but the Rocks’ inconsistency proved their downfall, having previously made the play-offs every season since 2001.
SURREY UNITED (4-29)
All change for Surrey in the summer as a change of owners brought a change of identity of the Guildford based club. Jack Majewski took over from Creon Raftopoulos as head-coach and instilled an element of his London United roots changing the name and giving his squad an opportunity to play in the BBL. Elvisi Dusha was appointed as the youngest BBL captain and was one of a few survivors from their opening game drubbing at the hands of Worcester. The addition of Lithuanian big man Ceslovas Kucinskas made Untied more competitive and later additions of Brandon McGill, Isaiah Tate and Nick Freer helped Surrey to a total of four wins as they finished the season as a completely changed team.
BIRMINGHAM KNIGHTS (0-33)
The BBL new-boys found their inaugural season a step too far as they finished the season by emulating Mersey Tigers by failing to win a single game over the course of the season. Brent Benson was relied on too much at times as Paul Douglas built his side around the American with a host of local talent. Last season’s EBL Division 1 MVP Martyn Gayle was the only other player to average in double figures for points as the Knights lacked consistency on both ends of the floor. They were tipped to get the better of Surrey when the two teams met in quick succession in February but Birmingham were unable to pull off a victory.
My BBL Awards
Most Valuable Player: Will Creekmore.
It could go to one of three players. Zaire Taylor and Victor Moses have both been consistently brilliant this season but Creekmore gets the edge. It’s unusual for a player on a Championship winning team to be in strong contention but that’s a credit to the strength of the Newcastle team as a whole. Creekmore was a walking double-double all season and finished the campaign with a highly respectable 20.9 ppg and 12.8 rpg, becoming the first player since 2007 to collect more than 400 rebounds.
Coach of the Year: Paul James.
Once again, it’s unusual for the award not to go to the Championship winning coach but James transformed Worcester into title contenders and led the Wolves to their first BBL Trophy success. Fab Flournoy will surely go down as one of the greatest ever coaches in BBL history and would be a worthy winner of the award while Lee Davie deserves a mention for taking the Wildcats into the post-season for the first time.
Rookie of the Year: Victor Moses.
The 6’7″ forward took the league by storm and picked up the Player of the Month accolade on no less than three occasions. An incredible 50 points and 20 rebounds performance against Plymouth was an astonishing feat and Moses topped the charts in scoring and rebounding averages. Scott Martin had a great season with the Eagles while Anthony Downing was impressive for the Riders either side of his injury.
Sixth Man of the Year: Paul Gause.
The explosive guard brings a lot to the Eagles cause from the bench from his speed, defence and range from downtown. The 28-year-old was a member of the ‘clean sweep’ winning side from 2011-12 and added to his medal collection helping Newcastle win the Championship with an important 14.4 points per game. Other contenders include another explosive guard in Manchester’s Stefan Gill, whose speed is a handful to deal with for defenders as well as his threat from beyond the arc, and Durham’s RJ Evans, who provided a strong inside presence for the Wildcats finishing with 12.3 ppg whist shooting above 50% from the field.
Most Improved Player: David Aliu.
The Giants’ forward was unplayable at times this season with his physical game inside perfectly balanced with his touch from outside. Aliu was putting up some big numbers for his side throughout the season and despite missing a run of games, he returned to the starting line-up to top score with 23 points in Manchester’s crucial final game. His team-mate James Jones also deserves credit, dishing out over 200 assists playing in a different role this season and he stepped up to the plate well.
Young Player of the Year: Louis Sayers.
In his first season in the BBL, the former GB under-20 guard worked his way into the starting five for Plymouth and earned recognition from the fans by finishing in the top 3 in their player of the year pole. A dangerous threat from 3-point range and an improving defender making his potential clear for all to see. Elvisi Dusha and Jamell Anderson complete the top three.
All-BBL 1st team: Reggie Middleton; Zaire Taylor; David Aliu; Victor Moses; Will Creekmore.
All-BBL 2nd team: BJ Holmes; James Jones; Malik Cooke; Mike Tuck; Daniel Northern.
All-BBL 3rd team: Brent Benson; Anthony Downing; Scott Martin; Rashad Hassan; Rob Marsden.
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