Defence the key to Eagles and Riders’ progression to Final

Newcastle Eagles player-coach Fabulous Flournoy and Leicester Riders coach Rob Paternostro praised their respective team’s defensive abilities as they both advanced to the British Basketball League Play-off Final this weekend.

For the Eagles, they are one trophy away from a clean sweep of titles this season having already claimed the BBL Cup, Trophy and League championship. It was nearly out of their grasp though, losing the first leg at home to the Cheshire Jets 99-89, player-coach Fabulous Flournoy highlighted his side’s fourth quarter performance in the second leg of their semi-final away at the Northgate Arena as the turning point of the tie.

“It was an unbelievably tough game,” Flournoy admitted. “Both teams played with a degree of intensity not seen in the regular season.

“With the injuries we were carrying it became a five versus five situation and our defence in the second half was what carried us to the win. To hold Jets to six points in the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter was key.”

Flournoy was also quick to point out the work-rate of his two stars Charles Smith, who was heavily rumoured to be retiring at the start of this season and BBL MVP Joe Chapman.

“Charles [Smith] carried us offensively through the first three quarters and then Joe [Chapman] stepped up like a true MVP and made a bunch of tough shots to carry us home,” Flournoy said.

Newcastle won the second leg 79-64.

For the Leicester Riders, it has no doubt been their best year since the 2001/02 season, when they won the Cup and Play-off double. Coach Rob Paternostro, who has transformed this franchise into title contenders since his arrival in 2008 was pleased with the confident performance his side put on in front of a sell-out home crowd in the second leg against Glasgow Rocks, which sealed their spot.

They did lose the first leg in Glasgow 77-76, but stormed into the final with a 97-72 win in the second game, securing a comfortable aggregate victory.

“We didn’t play particularly well in Glasgow, but it was important that we were only one point down,” Paternostro said.

“But we did a great job from the third quarter onwards and that’s where we won the tie. We were confident in front of our home fans. They’ve been fantastic all season, and their energy helped us play well from start to finish, especiallly at the defensive end.”