British_Basketball_League_(emblem)The unbeaten Esh Group Eagles Newcastle have claimed the first silverware of the season after their 94-82 comeback victory over the Leicester Riders in the BBL Cup Final.

In a great advert for British basketball which was seen by a worldwide audience, the two teams put on a great display at both ends of the floor inside a packed Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham.

The Eagles had found themselves down 14 points in the third quarter before embarking on a 12-0 run late in the third quarter that ultimately turned the game on its head.

Two years ago the Riders used a late run to beat Newcastle in the Cup Final and on this occasion the Eagles returned the favour, outscoring the Riders 15-5 in the last five minutes to seal victory.

It had all been so different in the first half as the Riders dictated the tempo and led the Eagles for almost the entire half, going into the break with a deserved 50-41 lead.

Eagles’ Rahmon Fletcher led all scorers with 18 points, earning him MVP honours, while Drew Sullivan and TrayVonn Wright both had 14 for the Riders.

“It feels good,” said Eagles’ guard Drew Lasker of the victory.

“We never panicked and we just played our style of basketball, chipping away at the Riders one possession at a time.”
Lasker, who finished with 17 points, added, “People just take what we do for granted at the Eagles and say we won again, we won again, but a lot of hard preparation and work goes into it.
“As the team at the top of the table, we’re going to get the best of any team we play as they always want test themselves against us, both individually and as a team.
“We know we’re going to get everyone’s best punch and we have to be ready every night like we were tonight.”
Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro was disappointed but quick to pay tribute to the winning side.
He stated, “You have got to give [Newcastle] a lot of credit – I thought they played really well in the second half and whatever mistake you made, they made you pay.”
The other two games over the weekend saw Plymouth University Raiders claim the last remaining BBL Trophy Quarter-Final place at the expense of National League side Essex Leopards, 102-60.
Behind a game-high 25 points from Duane Bailey, the Raiders took the lead for good late in the first quarter and put the contest out of reach in the third as they pushed their advantage to 28 points.
Cory Dixon continued his good start to life as a Raider with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Will Ashby and Justin Hitchman led the Leopards with 11 points apiece.
The Raiders will be up against the Sheffield Sharks in the next round and they will face a team in red-hot form after the Sharks handed Worcester Wolves an 85-75 defeat in the weekend’s only Championship contest.
Captain Mike Tuck led by example, netting 22 points and he was supported by Jerrold Brooks’ 21 points and 11 assists, as the Sharks won for the sixth straight game.
The Sharks sit just six points behind the Wolves in the standings and with four games in hand, Atiba Lyons’ side will no doubt will be looking to break into the top three over the coming weeks.