Barking Abbey were crowned the 2014 EABL National Champions, beating SGS College 76-74 in the final in front of 500 people at UEL Sports Dock on Saturday evening.
It was a fitting end to the season as the two best teams in the league battled down to the wire, with Barking Abbey going on a furious come from behind rally over the final minutes of the game to take their inaugural under-19 championship.
SGS College had three attempts to win or send it to overtime on their last possession after successive offensive rebounds, but were unable to convert, as the Barking Abbey bench stormed the court in celebration on the final horn before soaking their coaching staff with water.
It was two Daniel Ogunseye free throws with less than 30 seconds remaining that ended up being the game winners, but the talking point was MVP Josh Steel’s back to back three pointers with just over three minutes left that gave BA a two point lead , after trailing by as many as seven in the final period.
“He hit some clutch shots,” said BA Head Coach Frank Holloway. “Those two threes he nailed, they were huge, it was intense. I’m glad he made them, he’s a hell of a player and he deserves to be the MVP.”
“It’s taken us three years since I’ve been playing in this league, and I’m just so happy to finally win it,” said Steel, who finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. “…We’ve never won this league before so for us to win it as this group feels so special.
“SGS were very worthy opponents. I didn’t expect for them to be as tough as they were, they kept coming back and just wouldn’t go away.”
SGS were the only undefeated team in the EABL heading into the final and refused to go down without a fight, appearing to be in control for large parts of the game, which featured no less than 15 lead changes and 11 ties.
“We got a good look, to be honest,” said SGS Head Coach Andreas Kapoulas, referring to their last possession.
“At the end of the day, it was a great day of basketball, Barking played really well, I think both of us played really well and I think it was an exciting game, but in every game there was a loser and a winner and this time around it was Barking’s time.”
“The guys deserve it,” said BA Head Coach Frank Holloway. “They played their best game, they played their hardest, they didn’t give up. I couldn’t be happier with them right now. It’s just a testament to what we do at Barking, being the GB Institute, the amount of hours the guys put in, the individuals, the playing schedules, playing in the UK & the US, they’ve showed they’re champions and today they proved it.”
Dwayne Orija added 13 points and 7 rebounds for BA, Daniel Ogunseye had 12 points and 11 rebounds while coming up huge down the stretch and Joe Lockwood added 10.
It was SGS College’s dynamic duo of Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Tamas Okros who led from the front, with Lautier-Ogunleye finishing a rebound short of a triple double with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists, whilst Okros had 21.
SGS College became the first team to book their place in the 2014 EABL Championship Final after defeating Milton Keynes College 82-56 at UEL Sports Dock on Friday evening.
Undefeated SGS struggled to create separation early, but a dominant third period where they held Milton Keynes to just six points in the quarter, created a comfortable cushion from which they would cruise the rest of the way.
“It was a little tough at the start as we couldn’t quite get into the game, turning the ball over too much,” said SGS forward Tamas Okros, who led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds. “We had a talk with the coach and he told us what we needed to do and we came through in the end.”
SGS went deep into their bench and finished with a balanced attack, seeing five players reach double figures, whilst holding EABL leading scorer Michael New to just 16 points, more than 10 below his average.
“Our transition defense was not very good in the first half,” said SGS Head Coach Andreas Kapoulas. “As the game went on I think we wore them down, did a much better job on our transition defence and our rebounding was a lot better.
“Overall, I’m pleased but it’s only the first part, tomorrow we’ve got to be ready for the final.”
Barking Abbey will meet SGS College in the 2014 EABL Championship Final after defeating Charnwood College 70-60 on Friday evening at UEL Sports Dock.
Underdogs Charnwood College put up a strong fight, stretching their lead to as many as 13 points in the second period behind 15 first half points from Josh McSwiggan, but BA held him to just four points the rest of the way and dominated the third quarter behind the play of big man Karolis Kundrotas.
“We came out a little stunned, we were slow, not fast breaking enough, but in the second half we picked it up and played Barking Abbey basketball,” said Kundrotas, who finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds, 8 of which game on the offensive end.
“I think maybe we were a little nervous about being here; for some of our guys it’s their first time,” said BA Head Coach Frank Holloway, referring to Abbey’s slow start. “We got it together in the end and really took control in the second half and got back to how we were supposed to play and came out with a good victory.”
Kundrotas was joined in double figures by Josh Steel, who added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and Joe Junior Mvuezolo with 11.
McSwiggan had 19 for Charnwood, the only player in double figures, whilst Billy Fox grabbed 10 rebounds along with his 8 points.
Image Credits: Abdul Kassim Photography
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