- National Teams
Newcastle Eagles completed yet another clean sweep with a 96-84 victory over the London Lions in the BBL Playoff Final in front of a crowd of 14,700 at the O2 Arena.
Rahmon Fletcher ran the show for the Eagles with 23 points, and 9 assists to claim the Final MVP award, while the league MVP Charles Smith stepped up in a big game as he always seems to do to finish with 23 points.
GB captain Drew Sullivan carried the Lions at times, and was a major part of their strong start to lead by ten in the opening quarter. He would end with a game-high 27 points, but wasn’t able to add to his four playoffs titles.
“Newcastle have had a great season, he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what they’ve done, and I was lucky before to be part of it.”
The Lions came out firing, spurred on by the occasion and the feel of a home crowd. Joe Ikhinmwin set the tone by opening the scoring from downtown, and the Lions proceeded to make 5 of their first 7 attempts from 3-point range.
Sullivan had the hot hand for the Lions early on and scored five points in quick succession, before helping his side into a double digit lead.
The shots dried up as the Eagles began to take a hold on the game. The strength in depth has been a key part of their success and the likes of Drew Lasker and Andre Jones made immediate impacts from the bench.
Newcastle wiped out the double digit lead, and tied the game at 24-24. And they went from strength to strength; taking control in the second period.
The game was being played at a frantic pace, and a great battle between two veterans, Smith and Sullivan, took place as they led their respective teams. The Eagles made their move, and built a lead they would not relinquish. At the half, they led by 10 with Smith shooting 5/8 from deep for 16 points.
Zaire Taylor was chasing a third successive playoffs title, but was unable to replicate the form he had produced in guiding the Lions to the final. A wayward 3-point attempt summed up his evening, and was more resemblant of his form during the regular season.
Fab Flournoy kept his side focused until the final buzzer; barking orders from the side-line as he hopped along on crutches. With less than two seconds remaining in third, Scott Martin netted on an inbounds play at the buzzer to make it 74-55 to the Eagles heading into the final quarter.
The Lions sparked somewhat of a revival with a 6-0 start to the final quarter, and Makal Stibbins would later make it a 10-point game with 4:17 remaining after an ‘and-1′ play.
However, the damage had already been done, and Fletcher nailed a tough turnaround three with the shot-clock expiring to start the celebrations. Darius Defoe put the finishing touches on a dominant season with a putback dunk followed by a salute to the crowd with title number four wrapped up.
The Eagles’ dominance has been vast in the BBL, and the 2014-15 season will go into the history books as another sweep for the North-East side, going alongside the seasons of 2005-06 and 2011-12.