Basketball: Tigers turn tables on tottering Towers

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The Independent Online
By Richard Taylor

THAMES Valley Tigers' 78-71 win over Exide London Towers in the Budweiser Championship semi-final at Wembley Arena on Saturday signals the break- up of the team that has left their coach, Kevin Cadle, without a trophy for only the third time in 11 years.

Cadle, English basketball's most successful coach, said: "It's time to move on and look at fresh faces and fresh ideas. We brought back eight of last season's players because we thought they would be even stronger. We were wrong, and I need players who love basketball, not just like it."

Towers had beaten Tigers in all three league meetings this season. But despite Tigers' key playmaker, Casey Arena, being benched for 24 minutes, Cadle's players lacked the intensity and focus to take advantage.

Tigers' first-year coach Paul James, who has already won the National Cup this season, said: "We were absolutely determined to win. Towers were the only team in the League we'd not beaten this season and we were going to put that right."

After finishing just fifth in the league, Tigers significantly over-achieved to reach last night's final against Peugeot Bullets Birmingham, 91-80 victors over Manchester Giants.

Towers, in stark contrast, underachieved. Cadle said: "We reached semi- finals in three competitions but didn't get the job done in any of them."

That failure was mirrored against Tigers. "We had five or six fast breaks in each half, 2-on-1 or 3-on-1, but didn't score any of them," said Cadle.

Towers led 57-55 at the end of the third quarter before James risked Arena on four fouls at the start of the fourth. The 24 year old from Salem, Maine, neatly organised six consecutive scoring offensives over the next three minutes from open play or the foul line for a 64-57 lead.

Towers fought back but knew their season was over when the always-impressive Tony Holley, rapidly running out of options, threw up a long-range effort with all the subtlety of a house brick which thudded against the glass and ripped through the net for a three-pointer and a 72-66 lead.

BUDWEISER CHAMPIONSHIP: Semi-finals (results and leading scorers): Thames Valley Tigers 78 (McCord 29, Holley 28, Page 12), London Towers 71 (Lewis 22, Austin 16, Brown 12.); Birmingham Bullets 91 (Dorsey 25, Kirk 22, Lloyd 20), Manchester Giants 80 (New 20, Baker 20, Churchwell 19). Third- place play-off: Manchester Giants 87, London Towers 82.

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