The curtain came down on the 2014-15 BBL season on Sunday afternoon and having already collected the first three trophies on offer, Esh Group Eagles Newcastle completed the set with a 96-84 victory over London Lions in the BBL Play-Off Final.
London’s O2 Arena played host to 14,700 fans, a new BBL attendance record, who saw Eagles’ Rahmon Fletcher pick up the MVP award following a haul that included 23 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
But it was the Lions came roaring out of the gates at the start of the game, led by GB captain Drew Sullivan, who was hitting from long range. He scored 12 of his game-high 27 points in the opening quarter as London jumped out to a 24-14 lead.
The Eagles hit back with a 10-0 to leave the scores tied heading into the second quarter and with Charles Smith hitting his shots, the Tyneside club took control, earning themselves a 49-39 lead at the half.
Ably assisted by Darius Defoe, the second half was Fletcher’s time to shine as he put the Lions to the sword, helping increase their advantage to 19 points (74-55) heading into the final quarter.
Sullivan proved some late hope for the Lions in the fourth but the Eagles’ double-digit lead proved insurmountable and the Eagles claimed their 22nd trophy since 2005.
“I knew it was going to take a while for us to get our legs,” Fletcher said about the Eagles’ slow start.
“We hadn’t practiced all week. All we did was watch film during the week and it took us a little while to get our rhythm.”
He added, “At the end of the day we have veterans on our team who are very persistent so we stayed the course, took their first punch and got a punch of our own in in the third quarter."
"We knew they [London] were going to come out strong early on,” said Eagles’ Charles Smith, who finished with a team-high 24 points.
“We just held the course, stuck to what we do and abided by our scouting report that our coaches put together and in the end we were able to come out victorious."
Lions’ Sullivan, who was two points short of matching his season-high, paid tribute to the club he achieved a clean sweep of honours with back in the 2005-06 season.
“Newcastle have had a great season, I have a lot of respect for what they have done, I have been lucky enough to represent the club so I know how much hard work the guys do."
Sullivan added, “I thought that for large parts of the game we played well but Newcastle are known for hitting you with one really big quarter, and that's what they did in the third quarter, just at the time we were battling back.”
As for Lions’ coach Vince Macaulay, he was able to pinpoint the moment the game began to get away from his side.
“The 10-0 run at the end of the first quarter cost us in the end,” he said.
“We know Newcastle like to squeeze in that way, and we were aware that it would come at some point, it just came earlier than we expected."