A 17-point 3rd quarter explosion from Loughborough’s Lucien Christofis was enough to break the NBL National Cup Final wide open and sent the trophy home with the Riders.
A four-point Final at the half, Christofis’ exploits helped set up an 82-63 win that Team Solent Kestrels were powerless to resist. Despite working hard to get back into the game, the South cost side couldn’t find consistent looks of their own, shooting 29% from the floor and 2/22 from beyond the arc.
The game’s MVP award understandably went to Christofis, who added 7 more points to his 3rd quarter haul for 24 total, adding six rebounds and two assists for good measure. The talented shooter went 5/8 from 3pt range.
Coming into the Final as underdogs, the Riders had a plan and executed it to perfection as the game went on. A 6-0 Riders start was quickly countered by the Kestrels, a common theme for the opening 10 minutes. Hosana Kitenge (10 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks) was responsible for much of Loughborough’s offence, scoring eight points.
N A T I O N A L C U P F I N A L S . 🏆— NBL (@NBLengland) January 20, 2019
Solid start from both teams as they look to try and take hold of this one. 2nd quarter underway!
STREAM 📽 https://t.co/P4hNgIyiE1
STATS 💻 https://t.co/Hp3yMeatvB #NBL1819 #TogetherWeAreBasketbALL pic.twitter.com/hfuNh0JEcs
The 2nd quarter was when Loughborough began to hit their stride, particularly at the defensive end. Clogging up the paint and scheming to counter Solent’s big names, Coach Jarram’s side managed to bottle up Herm Senor II (14 points, six rebounds, six steals, three assists) and Nick Lewis (eight points, four rebounds) to reduce their impact on offence. Fortunately for the Kestrels, Travis Charles (24 points, eight rebounds) remained productive to score 10 points in the quarter and carry the load. Still, Loughborough were able to sneak their nose in front, leading 38-34 at the main change.
After the break, Christofis stole the show. With the game finely balanced at 47-45 Loughborough with 4:14 remaining in the 3rd, a 16-0 run from the Riders deflated Solent with Christofis doing most of the damage. He lit up the Kestrels from the perimeter, feeding the crowd and energising his bench. The MVP’s efforts were supported by a 3 from guard Kyle Jimenez (14 points, four rebounds) and some solid Riders’ defence. Senor and Lewis combined for just six points in the quarter, with the latter picking up a T as his frustrations began to grow.
N A T I O N A L C U P F I N A L S . 🏆@lborobasketball's Lucien Cristofis has just taken over! 17pts in the 3rd, 4/4 from deep! 🔥🔥— NBL (@NBLengland) January 20, 2019
STREAM 📽 https://t.co/P4hNgIyiE1
GALLERY 📷 https://t.co/flZlKTTquj
STATS 💻 https://t.co/Hp3yMeatvB #NBL1819 #TogetherWeAreBasketbALL pic.twitter.com/kcknMzX86G
There was no let up from Loughborough in the 4th as Solent tried to find a way back into the game. Nothing would fall though, no matter what the Kestrels tried and as time ticked by the Loughborough celebrations began to kick into gear. All that remained was for Lewis to pick up his second T and an early trip to the locker room, whilst the Riders just waited for the buzzer and their chance to lift the historic National Cup.
Loughborough Riders Head Coach Mark Jarram, “We knew there were certain key guys who we needed to limit their touches and make things really tough. Credit to our guys, they were able to be mindful of that and execute. Solent are very good in transition, particularly Herm (Senor II), he’s very quick and makes good decisions on the break, we just wanted to get bodies back and make him play half court.”
Loughborough Riders MVP Lucien Christofis, “Being MVP is a big achievement for me, probably one of the biggest for me so far. I had to pick myself half way through the game but my guys gave me energy and let me play with freedom. My mind set was ‘I can’t change the past, but I can still shape the future’ so I forgot about the 1st half, relaxed, and played my game. From there it just came naturally”
Team Solent Kestrels Head Coach Matt Guymon, “It was a frustrating game for us a I felt we got away from what we do well. We’re one of the best defensive teams in the league and we didn’t show that today. We get stops and push the ball in transition. We normally share the ball well. Instead we had forced shots, miscommunication or no communication on defence, that built frustration in our guys and the game got out of hand from the 4th.”