London Lions captured the first ever British Basketball All-Stars title at the O2 Arena in the capital by beating Newcastle Eagles 26-20 in the final.
Former GB international Justin Robinson won the tournament’s MVP award as Lions’ victory brought a frantic, five-hour basketball fest to a close, leaving fans exiting the arena with smiles on their faces and the creators Matchroom Sport strongly contemplating putting on the same event next year with them saying that the overall turnout toppled the Fast5 Netball competition held the previous night by the same promoters.
Games were 12 minutes long, with each team getting one powerplay, which lasted for two minutes and every basket doubled. There was also a five-point line, which was attempted many times with some players hitting the near half-court shot.
“It’s fast-paced, that’s for sure,” said Surrey Scorchers’ Alex Owumi. “Usually when a foul is called you get a break for a second but here, a foul is called and the game continues. It’s nuts. Either way though, this is great for us as we get a chance to see what the majority of teams are like in the league and it’s another chance for us to play before the season begins.”
The hometown Lions edged Bristol Flyers 18-16 in the first semi-final, with Eagles snatching a 27-26 win over last season’s treble winners, Leicester Riders, taking the lead in the dying seconds thanks to a basket from Terry Martin.
Despite reaching the final, Eagles started horribly as they fell to the Flyers 41-22, but regrouped to win in the double elimination stage with victories over Glasgow Rocks and Sheffield Sharks.
Lions took a direct route to the last four, beating Rocks and then Flyers ahead of their final victory over the Eagles that landed them a £25,000 winners cheque.
“We are happy and I felt like we were meant to win this,” said Robinson.
“This was our destiny, we came here to win, nothing less, and it is huge to land the title. I am enjoying the moment. To be player of the tournament is a great honour. There were a lot of great players here today, so I am happy to be MVP.
“Thank you to our fans, we appreciate them coming to support us. We will play hard and fight for them all season and we hope they will be behind us.”
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed