The British public is warming to Basketball it seems as a record near 15,000 crowd packed out the O2 Arena to see the Newcastle Eagles win a second BBL title in four years. Hoops has never been a major attraction in the UK, but in recent years there has been some traction. Especially in the showpiece finale, and the Eagles have been at the center of the rise.
The 14,700 in attendance were treated to a Newcastle Eagles franchise in full flight. The team has cemented its dominance over the rest of the field this season. The latest victim was London Lions, as the capital city club slipped to a 96-84 defeat. However, the Lions will be happy enough with a season capped with a final appearance. Especially after ending the BBL regular season in sixth place.
As for the Newcastle Eagles, nothing short of the league crown would have been sufficient after the team built on topping the regular season (31-5) to clean sweep the playoffs to go undefeated over the five key games to close the campaign. Turnover ball arguably decided the contest as the Lions managed just 8 points from 14 turnovers while the Eagles took 19 points from 8 turnovers.
The London Lions looked good in the opening quarter as the hometown franchise matched the high octane crowd to take a 0-8 lead. However, the Eagles swopped into the game and went hot at the bucket to ensure the score was locked at the first split, 24-24. The Lions cooled at the basket in the second frame and only amassed 15 points and Newcastle continued to pepper the nets to the tune of 25 points. Last season’s runner-up has opened a 49-39 lead and used the third act to extend the advantage by draining another 25 points while keeping London at 15 points (74-54). A twenty point cushion was all the Eagles needed to ease down the final straight, despite the Lions coming back with a 22-29 run.
BBL MVP Charles Smith led the Eagles in scoring with 24 points, but an all-round display of 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists earned Rahmon Fletcher the final MVP. Darrius Defoe logged 18 points and 7 rebounds, while Andrew Lasker doubled up with 11 points and 13 boards.
Andrew Sullivan hit a game-high 27 points for the downed Lions, while Makal Stibbins claimed 17 points and Joe Ikhinmwin nailed 13 points.