The Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders ended a 12 year wait for silverware as they secured the BBL Cup in thrilling fashion as they defeated the Newcastle Eagles 80-85 at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in front of a bumper 7,500 crowd.
Back-to-back baskets from Fab Flournoy gave the Eagles the lead at 80-79 with 1:05 remaining in the game. Zaire Taylor sank a huge three-pointer with 45 seconds left to give the Riders the lead at 80-82 and Jorge Calvo held his nerve to make one of his free-throws with 20 seconds left.
The Eagles had the chance to win the game, but both Joe Chapman and Damon Huffman missed three-pointers down the stretch and Calvo and Anthony Rowe made free-throws to give the Riders the thrilling victory to spark amazing scenes as the Riders celebrated their victory in front of the capacity crowd and Sky Sports cameras.
The MVP award was given to Jay Couisnard from the Riders for his team-high 17 points performance.
Earlier in the game, a tight opening to the game saw both sides trading baskets early on as they tried to establish themselves on the game. A pair of three-pointers from Andrew Sullivan saw the Riders take an early 9-12 lead, but the Eagles bagged six of the next eight points to overturn that quickly as they lead 15-14 with three minutes remaining in the opening period. Seven points from Jamell Anderson, including a bank three-pointer, gave the Riders a strong finish to the quarter as they ended the opening period 17-20 to the good.
In the second quarter, a Chapman three-pointer gave the Eagles a 24-22 lead, but it was shortlived as the Riders picked up their intensity at both ends of the floor and as a result, enjoyed a 18-5 burst to take the score out to 29-40 with 3:20 remaining in the first half. Huffman and Taylor traded three-pointers in the closing moments of the second quarter as the Riders headed into the locker room leading by nine points at 36-45 at the half.
In the second half, the Eagles came out of the locker rooms strongly after Flournoy’s team-talk and an 8-2 burst bought them right back into the contest as they trimmed the deficit back to just four points at 46-50. The Riders were not to be outdone however as 11 points from Jay Couisnard, including three three-pointers, saw the Riders finish the third period strongly with a 15-4 burst to enjoy their biggest lead of the game at 14 points at 51-65 heading into the final stanza.
‘I just want to go and celebrate with the guys.’
In the final period, Chapman and Anderson traded three-pointers early on as the Riders maintained their advantage and lead by 12 points at 64-76, but Charles Smith’s basket sparked the Eagles into life in the closing stages as he bagged six points in a 14-2 burst to tie the game up at 78-78 with 1:25 remaining in the game to set up a thrilling finish to the Final.
MVP Couisnard led the scoring for the Riders with 17 points personal, but it was Joe Chapman who led all scorers in the game as he netted 29 points for the Eagles in the defeat.
At the end of the game, Couisnard was lost for words in his explanation of the victory.
“I have no words for it. It’s fantastic! I just want to go and celebrate with the guys. We knew what we had to do in the final quarter to win the game and Coach Rob [Paternostro] set us up in practice all week. Could not feel better!”
Newcastle Eagles 80 (17,36,51) (Chapman 29, Smith 17, Huffman 13)
Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders 85 (20,45,65) (Couisnard 17, Anderson/Rowe 15)