One of Europe’s first national tournament champions of 2012 will be crowned on Sunday in England as Birmingham hosts the British Basketball League Cup Final featuring the table-topping Newcastle Eagles (11-1) against the Plymouth Raiders (6-2). Included in the festivities will be the 2012 BBL dunk contest and the “BBL Babes Cheerleaders,” of whose identity BiE’s not exactly sure, but who’s second-guessing?
Below runs everything you’ll want to know about the BBL Cup, including the match preview courtesy BBLFans.co.uk, weekly roundup by BallinEurope man in the UK Sam Chadwick, and naturally YouTubes. Jolly good!
(BBL Fans) – Newcastle will go into the contest as favourites … The pressure has been on Fab Flournoy’s men to perform this season, having failed to win a trophy last season for the first time since the 2003-04 season, back when the Plymouth Raiders were not even in the BBL – showing the contrasting history of the two clubs in this league. The Eagles have only won the BBL Cup once before, in a 2005-06 when they captured all four trophies, so they will hope victory in Birmingham will inspire another ‘clean sweep’.
Plymouth have a relatively short history in the BBL compared to some of their rivals but will be competing in their third final with mixed feelings. Current coach Gavin Love will have fond memories of Plymouth’s only title success in the BBL, having played a part in the side that stunned Newcastle in the 2007 BBL Trophy Final. However, the Plymouth faithful will not want to revisit the 2009 Cup final: The Raiders were on the wrong end of a 103-49 demolition as the Everton Tigers claimed their first piece of silverware.
Flournoy has retained the dangerous Joe Chapman and Charles Smith as well as the likes of Darius Defoe and Andrew Bridge, which has given Newcastle a slight advantage in the early stages of the season as they have not had to integrate as many new players into the club’s system. With the signings that were made, Paul Gause is already recognised as one of the quickest players in the league, and Andrew Thomson arrived from Mersey as one of the key members of their treble-winning season last year.
It’s not surprising to see Chapman as one of the leading scorers in the league, having notched up 162 points so far at an average of 20.3 points per game. Smith is equally capable of a big game performance, while Defoe (10 rebounds per game) and Thomson (7.9 rpg) have produced several double-double performances.
Plymouth are still alive in both knockout competitions, as they take on the Milton Keynes Lions in the semi-final stage of the BBL Trophy, making another final showdown with the Eagles a possibility. The Raiders have taken time to settle in this season with new signings such as the returning Anthony Martin, big men Paul Williams and Tomas Janusauskas from Sheffield and Guildford, respectively, and Michael Ojo and Ben Smith as the other Americans.
Smith’s stint in Plymouth didn’t last long and Love swooped for last season’s MVP Jeremy Bell, who joined Great Britain’s James Jones as a late arrival. Lehmon Colbert was one of the first players signed up this season which emphasized the impact he made in the league last season while captain Anthony Rowe returned for a third season. Plymouth will be buoyed on by a convincing semifinal victory over the Worcester Wolves in which Bell found his A-game with 33 points in a pivotal first leg. The Raiders are averaging fewer than 80 points per game in the league and this may need to improve in the final to combat the attacking Eagles.
Newcastle eased to a 90-67 home victory over Plymouth in the Championship in November on a night when Bell failed to produce his best, shooting just 23%. If the American plays well, Plymouth will have a chance to repeat their shock victory over Newcastle in 2007 to add a second BBL title to their cabinet. As intriguing as the battle between Chapman and Bell might be, watch out for the front-court battle between the duo of Thomson and Defoe against Rowe and Williams. Newcastle have made a strong start to the season and will start as favourites but Plymouth are building momentum and people should write them off at their peril.
The weekend of January 6-8 saw a large number of BBL games take place with a total of seven games over three days including three each on both Friday and Sunday, while the main day of the weekend saw just one game.
The weekend was tipped off by the Mersey Tigers losing a close game to the visiting Milton Keynes Lions, 87-80. The Tigers saw some positives, however, in the play of Kris Douse, whose stat line looked a lot like a ‘line of the night’: 34 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and three steals while hitting 62% from the field. The rest of the Mersey lineup was relatively unimpressive, though, with David Aliu posting 15 points, three rebounds and two assists while Myles Hesson contributed six points, six rebounds and three assists. For the Lions, it was Howard Crawford leading the scoring with 20 points while adding three rebounds and four assists. Demarius Bolds of course did a bit of everything, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Daniel Northern continued his solid rebounding numbers by grabbing 13 boards to go with 12 points. For the Lions, six players had over 10 points.
Up next were the front-running Newcastle Eagles going up against the Glasgow Rocks; the Eagles defended home court with a 97-71 victory behind a 28-point, five-assist, two-rebound performance from Charles Smith. Darius Defoe added 21 points, nine rebounds and four steals, while Andrew Thomson contributed a double-double to finish with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. For the Rocks, a pretty disappointing offensive performance saw no player scoring over 17 points; Glasgow’s most impressive players were Mychal Green and his 17 points, five rebounds and seven assists against six turnovers; Andrew Wedemire with a double-double of his own finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds; and solid Gareth Murray, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
The Cheshire Jets saw Matt Schneck return on Friday for their matchup at the Sheffield Sharks; unfortunately for him, his team could not come away with the victory, eventually going down 90-77. Matt did however finish with a double-double, collecting 13 rebounds and 22 points. Adam Brown added 21 points and five rebounds while Bill Cole, who performed magnificently during Schneck’s injury, finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The Sharks were without Justin Dobbins but instead received significant contributions from Olu Babalola, who finished with 27 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals. Nate Reinking finished with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists while player-coach Atiba Lyons added an all-around effort of 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Saturday saw the Durham Wildcats taking on the Leicester Riders and suffering a 92-79 home defeat. In the loss, the Wildcats had 18 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals from Paul Elderkin while Mario Flaherty contributed 17 points and eight rebounds and Mike Capocci added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. For the Riders, Bradd Weirzbicki led the way with 18 points, three rebounds and two assists; Ayron Hardy continued his impressive rookie season in the BBL with a 17-point, six-rebound, three-assist performance; and Andrew Sullivan saw his numbers come back up to normal levels by chipping in 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. For the Riders, five players scored in double-digits.
On Sunday, the Guildford Heat continued their solid start to 2012 with a three-point victory at Cheshire, finishing the game with a final score-line of 92-89. Tayo Ogedengbe led the Heat with 32 points, eight rebounds, two assists and five steals in what was the ‘Line of the night’. Martelle Mclemore added a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds while Julius Joseph finished with 16 points, five rebounds and an assist. For Cheshire, Bill Cole had a near triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks! Adam Brown finished with 23 points, four assists, six steals and one rebound, while Matthew Schneck in his second game back finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The MK Lions lost a close one in visiting league leaders Newcastle Eagles, 96-91. For the Lions, it was again Bolds, whose solid play continues even against the top of the league: Demarius finished with 29 points, five rebounds, two assists and eight steals. Northern cemented himself as one of the league’s best rebounders by grabbing 12 boards to go with 14 points, two assists, two blocks and a steal for good measure. Howard Crawford also added 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists for the Lions. For the Eagles, it was Charles Smith who finished a solid weekend with the win, putting up 20 points and four rebounds while centre Darius Defoe scored 16 points, added six rebounds and blocked one shot. Lastly for the Eagles is Andrew Thomson, who finished strong with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds. The Eagles had six players score over 10 and shot 53% from the field.
Finally, the Plymouth Raiders took a 101-84 home victory over Mersey. Lehmon Colbert had a phenomenal game, going off for 21 points, 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists while collecting two steals. Anthony Rowe was the second player to finish with a double-double in adding 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks while Paul Williams came close to becoming a third by adding 16 points and nine rebounds of his own. The game was solid for the Raiders as they beat the Tigers in most statistical categories including rebounding (43-34), assists (20- 9), and blocks (7- 0), while giving up fewer turnovers (12 to Mersey’s 13) and committing fewer fouls (17 to 24). As you can see, it was a bit of a shocker for the Tigers. David Aliu top-scored with 17 points and five rebounds, Devan Bailey contributed 16 points, four rebounds and two assists, while Jose Djado added 12 points, four rebounds and two assists
That wraps up the weekend’s BBL games here in the UK; check back soon for more English Basketball news.
Sam Chadwick is the co-head coach of the Solent Kestrels U14 basketball team, along with dividing the remainder of his time among an assistant quantity surveyor job, university studies and sportswriting. Chadwick is now a contributor at BBLfans.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @chadwick9.