Basketball: Leicester Riders' joy at BBL Cup win
Leicester Riders moved from contenders to champions yesterday.
The Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders wrestled the BBL Cup from holders Newcastle in thrilling fashion, surviving a fourth quarter onslaught to win 85-80 in front of a crowd of 7,500 at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham.
For much of the contest, Riders were the better team, leading by as many as 14 points, but in the final five minutes Newcastle rallied and took the lead with just over a minute to go.
A huge three-pointer from Zaire Taylor and an equally important blocked shot by Drew Sullivan in the closing seconds, ensured Riders responded when under the most extreme pressure.
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At the final buzzer, there were wild scenes of celebration both on and off the court, led by Rob Paternostro, whose reputation as Leicester best-ever coach now has some silverware to go with it.
The sides exchanged blows in the early stages, going score for score. Drew Sullivan was to the fore in the opening stages, he netted two three-pointers in the opening five minutes.
While Leicester were shooting well from behind the arc, their defence was throwing Newcastle out of sync. The Eagles missed all seven of their long-range attempts in the first period.
Jamell Anderson entered the fray early on and had a massive impact on the game. He netted a three-pointer which massively boosted his confidence, part of six consecutive points by the young forward.
At the end of that spell, Riders were 20-15 ahead just before the end of the first quarter.
Newcastle responded and Joe Chapman hit their first long-range effort of the game to cap a 9-2 run, which had the Eagles in front 24-22.
Sullivan, Anthony Rowe and Pavol Losonsky continued to attack the basket for Riders to great effect and Leicester were soon back in front.
Anderson came up with an important steal which he dunked back over Kareem Maddox, drawing a foul in the process, to give Riders a 32-26 lead and all the momentum. Jay Couisnard hit a highly difficult three-pointer and was followed in by Taylor from behind the arc as Leicester moved into a double-figure lead of 40-29.
Chapman got the Eagles back into the contest early in the third quarter, cutting Riders' advantage to 50-46.
Couisnard again, though, wrestled the momentum back from Newcastle. He hit two three-pointers and another basket and, with 12 minutes to go, they led 60-49.
With five minutes left, Riders were still very much in control of the game with a 10-point advantage, but the champions were refusing to lie down.
The Eagles bagged 10 consecutive points and ,with 90 seconds remaining, the game was tied at 78-78. Rowe netted a free-throw to give Leicester the lead, but Fab Flournoy put Newcastle in front with a minute to play.
Under extreme pressure, Taylor netted a vital three-pointer to give Riders an 82-80 edge. With the game on the line, Sullivan denied Smith, blocking his shot.
Jorge Calvo and Rowe then put the game beyond the Eagles.
Couisnard was given the MVP trophy for his impressive shooting and 17 points, but Rowe and Losonsky both had double-doubles and six players scored at least nine points – a true team performance.
Riders 85: Couisnard 17, Anderson 15, Rowe 15, Losonsky 13, Sullivan 12, Taylor 9, Calvo 4, Haggith, Williams, Washington, Lamble, Maynard
Eagles 80: Chapman 29, Smith 17, Huffman 13, Flournoy 12, Defoe 4, Maddox 3, Martin 2, Matthew, Madourie, Ikhinmwin