The Newcastle Eagles progressed to the BBL Cup Final after a titanic two legged semi final battle against the Leicester Riders in a close 71-63 victory. Andy Thomson pulled off a heroic performance claiming an outstanding double double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Thomson got the Eagles going with a big three pointer to spark a high intensity 7-2 offensive in the first few minutes. Darius Defoe then stretched the advantage to 13-6 with an energetic tip-in.
BBL Coach of the month Rob Paternostro was unhappy with the Riders offensive performance as they were taking tough shots and missing very easy opportunities. so he called time to straighten things out. The visitors were certainly lacking in their attack and to the displeasure of Coach Paternostro things got worse. John Griffin ‘air balled a shot’ and then the Eagles replied with Charles Smith hitting a three point dagger right on the buzzer to open up a double digit lead at 18-6.
The Eagles held their opponents in a favourable position but they knew from the first leg which finished all square at 90-90, the Riders were not going to give up easy. The Geordies composed themselves to stay ahead at 22-11 and by halftime, the hosts were in a healthy situation heading to the locker rooms 33-21 in front.
Leicester had proved they can fight when they look down and out from the previous leg but it looked like Paternostro’s side had a lot of work to do. Joe Chapman pushed the score to 42-26 with an amazing triple but a 14-4 burst from the visitors pulled them into contention cutting the deficit to six points. Tension was high which the Eagles relaxed by scoring the last three offences.
With just three minutes remaining, the Riders trailed at 58-48. A sudden feeling of deja vu must have been felt by the Leicestershire faithful when Flinder Boyd nailed a three followed by a couple of free-throws to trim the lead to four points.
However, the Riders couldn’t complete a comeback tonight as the game’s MVP Thomson sealed the deal with a huge shot from downtown to confirm a matchup with either Plymouth or Worcester in next months showpiece final.