Mersey Tigers ensured there will be at least some silverware on Merseyside this summer, by defeating Guildford Heat in the BBL Trophy Final at The O2 Arena.
The Tigers put their off-court distractions behind them to banish memories of their painful BBL Cup Final defeat back in January, with captain Drew Sullivan winning the MVP award for the game’s best player.
Sullivan racked up 16 points, as well as eight assists and eight rebounds, but he was ably supported, amongst others, by Andrew Thomson, who top scored with 21.
It was a third quarter blitz of 22 unanswered points which ultimately led the Tigers to glory, after the Heat had pushed them all the way in the first half.
Tafari Toney got the scoring underway with a trademark slam dunk, to forget his missed sitter early on against Sheffield back in January, and the Tigers opened up a six point lead twice in the first quarter, at 10-4 and 18-12.
Both sides struggled in a slow second quarter and it took a seven point run for the Heat towards the end of the half to spark the Tigers in to life. Trailing 37-36, Tony Garbelotto called a time out on the stroke of the half and then spent the break masterminding a glorious second half.
After falling five points behind early in the third quarter, the Tigers hit their straps and started playing some of their finest basketball, the type of which saw them dominate the league before Christmas.
The key moment came at 48-43 when the excellent Sullivan snatched an interception and strode away to slam dunk the ball, to trigger the Tigers’ dominance, and their third quarter was summed up by a sensational three pointer from just inside opposition territory by Nate Reinking on the buzzer.
With a 20 point lead established at 65-45, all the Tigers had to do was close out the game in the final ten minutes, and they did just that to claim their first silverware of the season, with the league title and play-offs still to play for.
Coach Tony Garbelotto said: “It’s an emotional time for the club and the people of Liverpool. We know we’ve got something special, this is a great sport, a great club, and this venue is as good as Anfield or Goodison Park.
“We’re trying to build something really special and promote the sport. We just want a fair crack off the court and for the success to continue.”