Today's NBL playoff finals at the Performance Centre in Manchester saw D3 and D2 matchups, with the D3 matchup taking place first between the Teesside Lions and the Worcester Wolves. This was then followed up by what might have been the best game of the year, involving the Solent Kestrel IIs and the Manchester Magic.
The first fixture saw the Lions' Ross Wilson, who was previously an U18 England squad member, lead his team with 14 points and 9 rebounds. He would end up winning MVP as the Teesside Lions were able to hold off a well-drilled Worcester Wolves side, claiming the D3 title with a score of 65-56.
The second fixture was the highlight of the evening, as the Kestrels matched up against the Manchester Magic. The game was close from start to finish with neither team being able to gain a significant edge. At best, Solent were able to gain a 13-point advantage but this gap was closed as halftime came. Sam Akano who would finish with 15 points was making a huge impact, especially on the offensive end.
Throughout the second half, it was more of the same; tightly contested. An incredibly controversial decision was made within the first minute of the second half when Kai Walker, one of Solent's leading scorers and overall players, was ejected after receiving a technical foul for passing the ball to the referee after his team scored a basket. This came after an unsportsmanlike foul he received in the first half which is an automatic tech, meaning that second tech would throw him out the game.
A now emotionally charged Solent side threw everything they had at Manny. Earl Thompson got to the paint in relentless fashion, finishing with 19 points. Greg Durand and Elias Poorman also showed out with 15 points a piece. Manchester did not shy away with big performances from Tyme Regent-Bascombe who had 15 points and Trevor Samuel who had 11. It was the late game heroics of Pharroh Gordon who was named to the NBL D2 North Team Of The Year, and 17-year old Ben Brown who would propel the Magic to the top of the mountain. Gordon hit a game-tying contested jumper to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, it would be the young buck that would come out the hero. Ben Brown hit the go-ahead 3-ball with 2 seconds left to give the Magic the NBL D2 playoff title.
Gordon finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with 10 rebounds, whilst Ben Brown would finish with 10 points. All in all, it was a great spectacle for British Basketball at a level which some may not know of its competitive nature.
Today was a showcase of how high the level of basketball is even at D3 level and how much it is celebrated with amplified crowds in both games. A great way to end the season.
Photo credit: Luke Simcock