Ian Pollard will be sadly missed and through out the weekend every referee will wear Ian’s number 19 on the back of their uniform. There would also be a minutes applause to celebrate his life, before the Championship game on Day 2 of the Weekend.
And so endeth the 08/09 season and I will start of by congratulating all of the winners of the various Competitions and Awards.
There were just two winners in the sliverware stakes this season and they were the Everton Tigers and the Newcastle Eagles, plus the winners of the BBL Player & Coach of the year.
I have decided to do this round-up of the season in various parts as I have got so much to say on the past few months.
Perhaps we should start of with the BBL Finals Weekend and what an interesting week end it turned out to be.
The Play-Offs really threw up just one upset and to be honest I am not sure how much of an upset it was. The Guildford Heat and the Plymouth Raiders have been going at it all season long and to be honest the result, victory for the Raiders, was no surprise at all.
The BBL League Champions Newcastle Eagles won the League ahead of the Everton Tigers, and in the end it was a quite comfortable victory for Fab Flournoy and his North East charges.
There had been stand-out performances for the Eagles all season long from BBL MVP Trey Moore (more on this later), Reggie ‘Action’ Jackson, Tafari Toney, Andrew Bridge, Charles Smith and of course Fab himself.
I should also mention Darius Defoe who has been immense for as long as I can remember. His ability to be in the right place at the right time is really a joy to see.
The Eagles also won the BBL Trophy defeating the Guildford Heat at the Spectrum in Guildford.
The Everton Tigers have had an amazing season under new Head coach Tony Garbelotto. Tony G has established himself so quickly that it is not easy to remember a time when he wasn’t there. He recruited a solid squad with some amazing talent, including Andre Smith, (more on him later), Josh Gross, Marcus Bailey and Olu Babalola. Of course Richard Midgley was already there from last season.
The ending to the game against Cheshire Jets will live long in the memory. This was the game where Josh Gross tipped in on the last second to win the game for the home team. A full house at Greenbank left the building floating on air. I was amongst them.
The game against the Newcastle Eagles in the second leg of the BBL Cup was another stunning evening. The Tigers were trailing by 7 from the first leg and opened the game with a 7 – 0 run as if to make the point that this was going to be their night.
Tony G’s boys went on to win the game and the tie, going on to destroy the Plymouth Raiders in the BBL Cup Final at the NIA back in January to lift their first ever piece of Silverware.
The Tigers had a comfortable Play-Off victory over the Scottish Rocks who had such a fantastic season until the season ending injury to Blake Shelton. This injury occurred after the transfer window was closed and so the Rocks were unable to replace him on court. Had Blake remained healthy it is quite possible that this team could have gone all the way, so congratulations to Head Coach Sterling Davis and his boys from north of the border.
The Sheffield Sharks came up against the Leicester Riders in the Play-Offs. The Riders also started the season with new coach Rob Paternostro and the gains they had made this season is truly a joy to behold. The Riders are one of the oldest franchises in the BBL but over the years they have found success difficult to come by.
Back in 2001 under the stewardship of one Billy Mims they finished 7th in the League, won their Play-Off game and went on to lift the Championship on Finals Weekend. Could they go all the way this year?
The Play-Off game at Leicester was truly an event and congratulation must go to the management who in a matter of days put together a truly fantastic promotion. All the home fans received a limited edition t-shirt so on arrival the place was a sea of red.
Paternostro and his boys were ready for the Sharks and up until the final few seconds this one could have gone either way. The Sharks were up by 2 with10 seconds to go…Duane James drives to the basket but instead of going all the way he kicks the ball out to the left wing where sharp shooter Bradd Wierzbicki Is waiting, he nails the tre and a mass of red throng onto the floor thinking the game was over.
Over it might have been but there was still 1.2 seconds left on the clock so the court had to be cleared. The Sharks draw up a play and Head Coach Atiba Lyons was ready to inbound the ball. As he does so the ball hits the roof, the whistle goes and more people throng onto the floor.
After another delay while the floor is cleared the referee hands the ball to the Riders who inbound and run out the clock. This was a famous victory for the Riders and heaven only knows what would have happened had the Sharks managed to get the ball into play from the sideline.
So here we are at Finals Weekend and game 1 will see the Eagles take on the Raiders while game 2 will see the Tigers take on the Riders.
After the success of my predictions last season, I decided to make no predictions this year and to be honest I think most basketball fans will have called this one.
The big news going into the Weekend was that Everton Tigers star Andre Smith had to return to the United States as a close member of his family was seriously ill. Andre was unlikely to return but the Tigers faithful were hoping for a miracle.
I have to say I found both semi-finals deeply disappointing as neither result was ever in doubt with the second being only slightly better than the first.
The Plymouth Raiders must hate playing at the NIA as for a second time they were blown away on this court. The Eagles were wonderful and cruised into the Final.
All eyes were now on the Tigers without Andre and the high flying Leicester Riders. This game offered some wonderful match-ups including mikeshaft.com favourites Josh Gross and Phil Missere going head to head.
There were moments but to be honest the result was never in doubt as Midgley, Gross and Babalola all stepped up and the Tigers got the job done.
So Tigers Head Coach Tony Garbelotto had got his guys into the Championship Final at the first time of asking.
Was this going to be one of the great finals of our time?
Well it was but not for the reason you might think.
Later, Mike S
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