Nottingham Hoods 77 v 80 Thames Valley Cavaliers
NBL Division Two Men Playoff Final
It took every last second of the NBL Division Two Men Playoff Final to decide who would take home the silverware as the Nottingham Hoods pushed Thames Valley Cavaliers all the way with a crazy fourth quarter comeback. The Hoods poured in 30 points in the final frame to make a game of it, but the damage had already been done.
Robert Banks Jr was awarded Playoff Final MVP honours as he went off in the third quarter; totalling 21 points for the game, while shooting 56% from the field. Martelle McLemore, Division Two Men regular season MVP, led the Cavaliers in scoring as he piled up 29 points, adding seven rebounds and three assists. Tevis Robinson paced the Hoods with 23 points to go with five rebounds and three assists.
It wasn’t just Nottingham that started slowly, the game as a whole took some time to get going. The Final was well into its third minute before both teams were able to get off the mark and from there it was Thames Valley that looked to push on. An emphatic block by Teejay Amu (six points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) gave the Cavs an early spark and led to McLemore’s first points of the game in transition before his pull up triple added to the Thames Valley lead. Delaney Powell (12 points, eight rebounds, two assists) replied in kind to keep Nottingham in touch but with McLemore scoring 10 in the frame the Cavs led 24-16 at the first change.
“Today we had a few of our bigs who were unable to make the journey,” said Cavs Head Coach Robert Banks Sr. “We knew it was going to be tough but the guys out there battled hard and deserve a lot of credit. They’re big, strong, athletic, and helped us get the result.”
Thames Valley’s lack of size was evident throughout as their opponents quickly began to take control of the glass. The Hoods racked up 29 offensive boards in the contest and after pulling down 6 in the first quarter, Coach Westley’s side added 10 more before half time as second chance opportunities began to pile up. McLemore was still looking strong though and his efforts from range were key to that; the talented forward was 4/5 from deep in the first half.
Despite using just six players in the contest, the Cavs established a 15-point lead as half time approached. That advantage would remain largely constant for the majority of the game until Nottingham’s late charge.
“I told Robert Jr. at half time ‘Young legs, the second half will belong to you’ and I think he took that to heart,” said Banks Sr. when discussing his team’s performance after the main change. “He did an outstanding job getting us over the line from there.”
As Nottingham’s offensive rebound count reached 20 in the third frame, the coaches words rang true as Banks Jr. kept Thames Valley in control. The young shooter added 10 points in the quarter, including two three-pointers on back to back possessions, to help his team lead 63-47 going into the last.
“My coaches had faith in me and told me I needed to be a little bit more aggressive,” said MVP Banks Jr. “On offence and defence it started to click, and once things started to heat up on defence I was able to do a lot more in the 2nd half.”
Just when it looked like Nottingham were going to fade in the game, their Captain David Watts (18 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) came up with a pair of momentum changing treys to fire up the crowd and cut the Thames Valley lead to just six with 2:59 remaining.
Even when Watts did miss, Robinson was able to gather in yet another offensive rebound and a put back dunk had Thames Valley rocking. When the Cavs managed to get to the line to feed their spluttering offence, the usually sure handed McLemore couldn’t find his stroke. Janes Casimiro Mestre’s only points of the game were big ones for the Hoods as his lay-up with 21 seconds to go put his side within 2, but that was as close as the game would get. Although Nottingham would keep sending their opponents to the line, late misses from Banks Jr. wouldn’t be punished as ironically an offensive rebound by Thames Valley secured the ball on the game’s final possession.
“We started a bit too late in our fightback,” conceded Watts after the buzzer. “Thames Valley are a really good team and we came out really flat with no energy. They took full advantage of that as a side of their calibre would do.”