- National Teams
For the second time in three years, it’s London Lions against Cheshire Phoenix in the BBL Trophy final.
The two teams lock horns for the first piece of silverware in the 2023-24 season with a 3:30pm tip on Sunday in Birmingham.
London were the first team to advance to the final four after winning their opening three games in the group phase, before losing to Bristol Flyers. They had to battle back from 15 points down against Caledonia Gladiators in Saturday’s semi-final on the way to clinching an 85-75 victory.
As for Cheshire, they swept through their group with four straight victories including a three-point road triumph over Caledonia in a repeat of last season’s final. Ben Thomas’ side surrendered a late 12-point lead against Leicester in their semi-final, but Laquincy Rideau was clutch when it mattered most with the game-winner in the final seconds.
It wasn’t pretty for the Lions, but they found a way to win. Gabe Olaseni battled early foul trouble to put up a big double-double of 18 points and 15 rebounds with London winning the battle on the boards with 18 offensive rebounds. And, Josh Sharma had a huge second half to finish with 19 points.
That inside duo can help set the tone again for London, but they have the deepest roster in the league and you could reel off a long list of MVP candidates. Matt Morgan has had a big season
For Cheshire, they can hurt you in a variety of ways. The all-round talents of Aaryn Rai and Rideau are invaluable with guaranteed entertainment, while Skyler White has the green light from outside – going 6-of-17 3PT against the Riders, who were 8-of-22, and Maceo Jack has been the team’s leading scorer this season.
The absence of Ethan Chargois is a blow, especially for the matchups inside and Cheshire will need to ensure they don’t get dominated on the glass and give up as many second chance opportunities as Caledonia did.
It’s a third straight Trophy final for the Phoenix having beaten London in the 2022 showpiece, whilst losing a heartbreaker last year to Caledonia. The club also previously won four in a row from 2001-04 in their Jets era.
Meanwhile, London will be playing in a fifth Trophy final, though they have only won the competition on one previous occasion when they defeated Plymouth in 2021.