Basketball: London have Eagles in their sights after mauling of Lions

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The Independent Online

London Towers warmed up for tomorrow's British Basketball League Cup final against Newcastle Eagles with a sparkling 107-78 championship win over Milton Keynes Lions at Bletchley last night.

The victory lifted Towers above Lions in the table to fourth place and was their fifth win out of the last seven games in the championship. Quincey Wadley led their scorers with 29 points ahead of 28 from fellow American Chez Marks.

Although today's cup final programme at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena will climax with Towers facing favourites Newcastle, for those with a hankering for the sport's heritage, the most important fixture on the bill pits two clubs from the second-tier English Basketball League, when Reading Rockets face Essex & Herts Leopards in the National Cup Final.

The national championship was first settled by the cup final in 1936, also in Birmingham, when Hoylake YMCA beat London Polytechnic 32-21. But BBL clubs have staged their own competition since, refusing to comply with the governing body's restriction on imports three years ago.

Leopards have seen the final from both sides of the fence, after their predecessors London Leopards won the National Cup in 1997 as a BBL franchise.

The Leopards resigned from the BBL in 2003, but after a year's hiatus the club's supporters bought the Ware Rebels' EBL Division One franchise and re-entered competition. Leopards coach Jon Burnell said: "This is the sort of thing you set out to achieve when you are recruiting during the summer." Against National Cup holders Reading, Burnell will face one of his former mentors in Rockets coach Dave Titmuss.

Former England coach Titmuss said: "I am thrilled for him to have reached the final and he deserves the success."