The BBL Cup came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday afternoon as Newcastle Eagles held off a spirited London Lions fightback as the BBL’s most successful franchise win the competition for the sixth time.
MVP Justin Gordon contributed 17 points and 15 rebounds as Eagles got across the line in a pulsating affair.
Lions, who had to make to do with a depleted roster if only seven players looked to have had their fate decided by the end of the first half as they trailed by fifteen.
But they looked rejuvenated side in the second half and even edged ahead in the last but couldn’t get the job done as Eagles fought back.
Newcastle were in control from the onset and the contest looked in danger of being a one-sided affair as they outplayed London with fast transitions and more consistent shooting.
It was a difficult day for Lions, having announced that they will not be competing in this year's FIBA Europe Cup following positive COVID tests in their camp. Nevertheless, they should be proud of their efforts with such a limited squad.
Story of the Game
The game got off to lively start with both teams wanting to get the early advantage. Justin Robinson got the scoring underway with an easy layup, the two time MVP was looking to get his shots off quickly from the get-go.
Both teams got off to a cagey start in the opening minutes. This demonstrated by 9 turnovers happening just before the halfway stage in the first quarter.
Triples from Rahmon Fletcher and Louis Sawyers gave Eagles a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, with Newcastle up 21-18.
The game started to get away from London in the second quarter. Newcastle were ruthless on the transition and punished the Lions on the break consistently.
With such limited options from the bench, fouls played a massive part in the game for London. Shane Walker and Orlando Parker got in foul trouble in the second and had to be careful for the rest of the game. This allowed Evan Maxwell to have more freedom inside the paint.
This freedom showed when Rex Plueguer found Maxwell with a clever pass for the big man to dunk home.
Eagles went in at the break 11 points up with a 46-35 lead.
The Sky Sports cameras picked up Vince Macauley's passionate half time team talk and it must have made a difference to his Lions side as they came out looking like a rejuvenated team.
He was heard saying: "What I want to see is your belief in yourself. You control your own destiny."
Lions had been struggling with their shooting from behind the arc throughout the game. They finally got one to go as Justin Robinson found his range and initiated a massive momentum swing as Lions fought back.
Dirk Williams hit a deep three and then dunked home from a steal moments later as the Lions closed the gap to a one-point game.
Eagles, however, would finish the third strongly and regained a five-point leade courtesy of Cortex Edwards and Darius Defoe as they went into the last quarter.
Early in the last Justin Robinson would give Lions the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a pull up three. London now looked the favourites to go on and win the match.
Three-pointers were now starting to drop for both teams. Rex Plueger and Orlando Parker both made their efforts from behind the arc as the lead interchanged between the sides.
Ultimately it would be Eagles who would finish the game the way they started it. Justin Gordon made a crucial offensive rebound that let Rahmon Fletcher lay up to make it a two-possession game and wrap up the tie for the Eagles.
Justin Gordon and Rahmon Fletcher were the star players for Eagles but it was a spirited team performance that allowed them to take home their sixth BBL Cup.
It will be a tough defeat to take for Vince Macauley's men and they might feel on a different day with a full squad it might have ended differently. They will still remain one of the teams to beat in this year's BBL competition.