Would The Eagles successfully defend their BBL trophy or would this be the year of The Riders? This was the question on everyone’s lips going into Sunday’s final. Recent form suggested that the Newcastle Eagles would walk away with another BBL title to their name, but if anyone was to knock them off their perch it would be the Leicester Riders.
Before the BBL Cup Final tipped off, we were treated to the Women’s BBL Cup Final, were we saw Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters beat Barking Abbey Crusaders 79-45 to retain the title in one of the best female basketball matches we’ve ever seen here in Birmingham. We saw these ladies dig deep and show us exactly why the sport is growing in popularity for women.
If you’ve never been down to BBL Cup Final day, you're honestly missing out, it's just a fantastic day from beginning to end. Doors opened from 11:00am and there was none stop action right up until 5:30pm, pleasing both regular basketball go-ers and also families and friends experiencing it for the first time. After the Women’s BBL Cup Final, we were treated to some acrobatic action from the basketball freestylers who performed dunks, flips and tricks - which was insane (it also made me slightly jealous as I’d have been knackered running to the half way line)
After a small break it was time for the main event Newcastle Eagles vs Leicester Riders and back on 3:30pm the referee tossed the ball in the air to signal the start of the match…and what a start it was. The pace of game was perhaps the most surprising as both teams were out to get that early lead, converting early lay-ups and the odd three pointer in an attempt to steal the initiative.
Quick spoiler...you can watch the BBL Cup Final Mini-Movie below which features all the action from the day.
It was the Leicester Riders who edged the first Q1 leaving the court with scores at 28-25 in their favour. We knew it would be a close contest and the end to end action lived up to our expectations.
The intensity in the second quarter matched, if not topped, the intensity showed in the first quarter. Both teams had one thing on their mind…a convincing lead going into half time – and as the whistle blew it was again The Riders who went in the happier of the two teams leading 50-41.
At half-time we were treated to a flawless performance from FLAWLESS! The dance troupe, who finished third in Britain’s Got Talent 2009, completely wowed the Birmingham crowd with enough flips, tricks and spins to make you feel dizzy – they were amazing!
After a quick 15 minute break and the excitement of Flawless, it was back to the action. Again, both teams continued to sink hoops, but it was the Newcastle Eagles who edged the quarter closing the gap to just four points heading into the final Q of the match.
The momentum seemed to stay with The Eagles as they pushed harder and harder and finally overtook The Riders who had been leading for the majority of the game. Leicester continued to fight, but the trickery of Fletcher and the experience of Smith seemed too much for The Riders as they ran out of steam.
A few deadly three pointers and some key interceptions helped seal the deal for The Eagles as they swooped in with only a few minutes left to steal the match. Even though Leicester gave it their all in the final 60 seconds, Newcastle saw out the game to retain their BBL Cup crown for a second successive year.
The Leicester Riders came so close, playing their part in what was one of the greatest BBL Cup Final’s we’ve seen here in Birmingham. The Eagles, well, what can we say about the Newcastle Eagles. Even when they slipped 11 points behind they never seemed out of the match. It’s easy to see how they’ve remained unbeaten in the BBL Championship 2016/2016 and why they are one of the best outfits we’ve seen in British basketball for a long, long time.
Reviewed by Todd Newton