Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders produced a superb defensive performance to win the BBL Play-off Final 68-57 against Newcastle Eagles, completing a treble in front of a sold-out Wembley Arena after lifting the BBL Cup and BBL Championship trophies earlier in the season.
GB Olympian Drew Sullivan was named MVP, adding the award to his Molten BBL Player of the Season award. He ended up with a game-high 24 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. He was supported by Jamell Anderson, who made 86% of his shots on his way to 13 points and 6 rebounds. BBL Cup Final MVP Jay Cousinard finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds, while Zaire Taylor finished with 8 points and 2 steals.
For Eagles, only Darius Defoe and Kareem Maddox made more than half their shots as they finished with 13 and 12 points respectively. Maddox also pulled down a game-high 8 rebounds.
Riders held Eagles to just 57 points – the lowest score ever posted in a BBL Play-off final, breaking the record of 62 points scored by Riders in their loss to the Eagles in last season’s final. Eagles made just 35% of their shots against great Riders defence and sank just one of their sixteen 3-point efforts. The Riders’ 68 points also broke the record for the fewest points scored by a winner, breaking a record that the Eagles had tied in last season’s final with 71 points.
Eagles started the game struggling to score against some stifling Riders defence, with Molten BBL Defensive Team of the Year members Drew Sullivan and Zaire Taylor coming up with some fantastic defensive plays that resulted in steals. It took Eagles close to 3 and a half minutes to score on the Riders defence, through Kareem Maddox, who scored 2 field goals in succession to give Eagles the lead at 7-5, which would prove to be their final lead of the game.
Riders had struggled to that point to score against the Eagles as well, but Rob Paternostro’s substitution into the game of Yorick Williams proved to be an inspired decision. The veteran sharpshooter had 5 points and an assist during a 13-0 run that put Riders up by 11 at 18-7 and Riders maintained that lead into the quarter-break, where they led 22-11.
Charles Smith cut that down to single figures for Eagles, scoring the first points of the second quarter, but that proved to be short lived as the Eagles then scored 3 points in the next 5 minutes on some great Riders defence. Riders meanwhile scored 8 points in the spell but made just a single field goal in the period, scored by Drew Sullivan. That spell took the Riders’ lead out to 14 points at 30-16.
Kareem Maddox’s putback started Eagles on a 6-0 run to pull themselves to back within 8 points, leaving them down 34-26 with 90 seconds left in the first half. They didn’t score again, going into the half-time break down 38-26, with those 26 points the fewest ever scored in the first half of a BBL Play-off final.
Eagles came out of half-time fighting, Darius Defoe sinking an alley-up, with Smith assisting at the end of a 7-2 mini-break by Eagles at the start of the third quarter, cutting the Riders’ lead down to 40-33.
But Riders hit back, Sullivan showing his class by sinking a 3-point shot then making a massive slam dunk in an 11-2 run that made the Riders’ lead 16 points at 53-37.
Jay Cousinard hit a 3-point shot to extend that lead out to 17 points in the final stanza, making it 60-43. But the Eagles struck back, with Joe Chapman finally making a trey for them after 33 minutes of play. That sparked an 8-0 run, nearly halving the Riders’ lead to make it 60-51.
The Riders stopped that run after Sullivan again came up with a vital play, making a tough turnaround jump shot to make it 62-51.
That stopped the Eagles’ run with 5 minutes to go and the Riders’ defence again proved tough – Eagles never reduced the gap to single figures again. The Riders kept the Eagles to just 6 points in the final 5 minutes and while they also only score 6 points, it proved enough to secure them a second BBL Playoffs title.