In what's been described as the biggest day in the history of Plymouth basketball, the Plymouth Raiders seized victory in a thrilling BBL Trophy final.
The Raiders won the 2007 BBL final at the MetroRadio Arena in Newcastle with a pulsating 74-65 victory over the Newcastle Eagles.
It was the Raiders' first ever triumph in the competition and came thanks in no small part to Carlton Aaron, who was the man of the match thanks to a 25-point, 12-rebound haul.
A jubilant Raiders' head coach Gary Stronach said: "It's a fantastic feeling and I'm so proud of my players."
|Andrew Lasker. Photo: Karl Southern|
In the early exchanges it looked like the Carlton Aaron show for Plymouth Raiders - the big man from Kansas City, Missouri, scored 14 points in the first quarter alone to edge the Raiders ahead.
Eagles' early scoring came from player/coach Fab Flournoy, but it was not quite enough to give them the lead.
It wasn't until back-to-back dunks from Olu Babalola that Eagles edged into the lead at 17-15, but they still trailed 18-21 going into the second quarter.
It was a lead that Plymouth maintained throughout the second stanza, leading by as many as seven points on two occasions.
They took a five-point advantage into the second half at 40-35 and then built on that advantage with a 10-2 tear early in the third quarter to extend their lead to 10 points at 50-40.
The Eagles were kept to just 10 points in the third period and trailed 45-58 going into the final quarter.
It was do-or-die time for the reigning BBL Trophy Champions, and they weren't prepared to give up their title without a fight. They enjoyed an 11-2 tear early in the fourth quarter to cut the gap to six points at 56- 62.
Newcastle struggled to make any further serious inroads into the Raiders' lead and Plymouth hung on for the spoils, much to the delight of the passionate Plymouth fans who made the long journey up to Newcastle to watch their team.
|DeAntoine Beasley. Photo: Karl Southern|
As well as Carlton Aaron's scoring exploits, Gaylon Moore was in fine shooting form, bagging 17 personal points, whilst Tony Dorsey led the way for Eagles with 20 points.
"It was awesome, it was a total team effort," said Raiders' American foward DeAntoine Beasley.
"The fans were behind us 100 per cent and there was a great energy in the building.
"We were really confident coming into this game and when Carlton came out of the blocks like that, he opened it up for the rest of us and gave the other guys a lot of options.
"With a guy that size when he's really active, nobody can really defend him one-on-one. He caused a lot of havoc for them on the inside and that helped us.
"A lot of people had to make sacrifices to get us into this division and this is the first pay-off for us and the city of Plymouth.
"The fans were really behind us, even when we got a bit stagnant in the second half, you could still hear them."
A delighted head coach Gary Stronach has now set his sights on getting into the BBL Championship play-offs.
"I'm over the moon for everybody - we want more now. It's huge, this is top flight basketball.
"Nothing can take this away, we are at the pinnacle of our sport right now.
"We've beaten the Newcastle Eagles on their home court - they are four-time national champions, they won everything last year and we've come into their backyard and played a 40 minute ball game.
"I want to thank everybody who supports us. We want to build on this now.
"We said we had a five year plan and we wanted to win something in the fifth year, so we've accomplished that early.
"We're ahead of schedule but there's a lot of work we still have to do.
"It doesn't stop here - we still have nine very important league games left this season and we've got our eyes on the national championship."
Newcastle Eagles 65 (18,35,45)
Dorsey 20, Robinson 15, Flournoy 12
Kularoos Plymouth Raiders 74 (21,40,58)
Aaron 25, Moore 17, Love 11
Photos courtesy BBL/Karl Southern