Cunningham back in old routine

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Worthing Bears could be the first team to fail a drug test collectively for overdosing on the elixir of youth. Alan Cunningham, their 40-year- old player-coach, led his ageing rockers, average years 34, to a 77-73 triumph over Manchester Giants in the Budweiser League play-off final last night.

Cunningham was taking Worthing's third successive play-off title in his final game for the club and his seventh in a row, improbably, for three different clubs. He insisted that his successor, Colin Irish, lift the trophy with him in front of 8,000 fans at Wembley Arena. Irish ripped the game from the Giants, after they came back to trail 69-68, by scoring seven of Worthing's last nine points.

Five minutes into the game Worthing's age was showing and their muscles plainly ached after Saturday's 84-72 semi-final win over Sheffield Sharks. They were torn apart by a dazzling play as Cam Johnson led a fast break and dished the ball to Mark Robinson, who dunked over Steve Nelson, drawing the foul and capping an 11-0 spurt to go 13-4 ahead. Giants led 23-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Irish dribbled the ball at ankle height as he struggled to stay upright, but scored and drew the foul. That basket made nine consecutive points as the Bears mauled the Giants 17-4 to trail just 37-35 at half-time. The Bears kept rolling into the third quarter as a three-point play from Cleve Lewis, a three-point shot from Irish and six points from Cunningham left the Giants trailing 56-46 with 10 minutes left.