Basketball: Towers triumph at the last as tension rises

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The Independent Online
The prestige of winning the Budweiser League play-off final took a backseat at Wembley Arena last night. This all-London affair between the Leopards and the Towers had more to do with "bragging rights" in the capital.

Towers won a thrilling finish 89-88, but the niggling that has built up over seven meetings this season into downright animosity put an ugly stamp on the showpiece finale.

Even after their victory, Towers could not resist scoring more points. Captain Roger Duhaney and Tony Windless taunted the prostrate Robert Youngblood and were warned to back off by the League chief executive, Mike Smith, as he walked on to the floor for the presentations.

Windless and Youngblood had squared up in the final seconds of the first half, then Neville Austin and John Tresvant went for each other as the teams walked back to the dressing-rooms.

The players needed to cool off and Towers to regroup. With their point guards refusing to pass the ball their offense was a mess. Defensively, they could not cope with the penetration of Eric Burks, the three-pointers from John White and the offensive rebounds of Youngblood, Tresvant and Tim Davis.

Trailing 48-42 at the break, Towers came out of the locker-room and finally started to play. Their specialist three-point men, Paul Deppisch and the 6ft 10ins Keith Robinson, began to hit, Lewis's drives began to count and Austin, Windless and Cunningham started defending.

At 79-78, Robinson's three pointer gave Tower their first lead since the opening minute. White immediately responded with another three and the teams traded points until Lewis scored four free throws to stop a Leopards surge and tie the scores on 87-87.

Crucially, Davis missed two free throws and when Leopards regained possession only for White to rush his shot and miss, Towers had the ball with 35 seconds on the clock. Karl Brown allowed Burks to strip the ball from his hands but when Leopards' outstanding American was fouled he scored only one of two free throws. Burks, still rattled, then fouled Lewis with three seconds to play and Towers' American made no mistake.

n Sheffield Hatters underlined their domination of women's basketball when the league champions beat Thames Valley 72-50 in their play-off final to record their 63rd consecutive win in all domestic competition.