Flyers Oust Leopards in Quarterfinals
By Dave Ryan
The Bristol Academy Flyers progressed to the EBL Division One Final Four in their first season in the top flight with a 105-96 home quarterfinal win over the London Leopards.
The two sides had met twice before during the regular season with Leopards narrowly winning on both occasions, however this time it was the Flyers' turn to smile.
Top scorers for the Flyers were Ryan Williams and Arek Makowski with 30 and 16 points respectively while Greg Streete and Adam Simons followed them with 14 each. For the Leopards Gareth Laws led all scorers with an amazing 39 point performance and a stunning 6 out of 8 three point shot attempts while Leopards captain Sam Salter added 22.
After Laws had scored the first points of the game, Flyers took an early lead with a six straight points thanks to scores from Ryan Williams and Gareth Till. Excellent three-point shooting by Salter and Laws would put the visitors 19-15 ahead with three minutes left in the first period.
That was the last time the London side would lead the game as a quick seven points by Williams put the Flyers 26-20 ahead before Salter halved that lead with a buzzer-beating three.
A change of defence by the Bristol team caused uncertainty to the Leopards side as the Flyers went on a 15 to 4 run in the first six minutes of the second period.
Leopards’ Carl Latham-Henry cut the Flyers lead down by nine, but another five points by Williams and a couple of free throws by Makowski and Ahmed sent Flyers into the locker room with a 47-34 lead.
The Flyers, with the help of Simons and Makowski, started the second half with six unanswered points to extend the lead to its biggest margin, 53-34. Leopards though did not give up and with three quick successful shots from beyond the arc by Salter, brought the deficit down to 10.
However, baskets by Bristol’s young guns, Greg Streete and Tyrone Treasure, saw Bristol take the lead out to 71-55 going into the final break.
Two consecutive threes by Makowski and Streete put the Flyers even further ahead and after a few exchanges of baskets and another three by Lee Treasure, the Flyers took the lead out to 19 (83-64) with six minutes remaining.
Leopards still had one more run in them, and an and-one from Errol Seaman helped them score nine unanswered points to cut the deficit to 85-75. Simons halted the run with a trey, but three pointers from Matt Collins and Laws, together with a pair of Latham-Henry free-throws saw Bristol’s lead cut to 88-83 with three minutes remaining.
Leopards kept within eight until the final minute, but consecutive Williams points ended their resistance and sent Bristol through to the final four.
Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas was really pleased with his team’s attitude:
"We secured an early lead in the game by keeping Leopards in low numbers during the first half.
"It got a bit sticky towards the end but whenever we needed baskets or defensive stops someone will step up and do it for us. Full credit has to go to all our players for their determination and mental toughness. When we play together and work hard, great things happen.
"This has been a fantastic season for us. Who would have ever thought in our first season in Division One we would finish in the top four in the league behind teams with long tradition and we would also make it to the Final Four in Sheffield? People would have laughed at whoever said this!
"We did it though and congratulations have to go to the players. This is a great achievement for Bristol basketball and I would like to say a massive thank you to all our supporters, sponsors and Filton College who, without them, we would not be able to perform to our best."
The full quarterfinal game between Bristol Academy Flyers and London Leopards can be viewed on www.sportuk.tv.