The Birmingham Bullets bandwagon is rolling all the way to Wembley after London Towers surrendered 60-53 in the play-off semi-finals at Coventry's SkyDome on Saturday. It was a reprise of the Sheffield Sharks demise in the quarter-finals seven days earlier.
The Bullets, who won both their previous Wembley finals in 1996 and 1998, will play the Manchester Giants on 6 May after the Northern Conference champions held on to beat Edinburgh Rocks 88-84 after leading by 29 points in the third quarter.
After finishing only third in the Southern Conference, Birmingham have now eliminated the Northern Conference runners-up and the Southern Conference champions. They finally broke London's resistance in the final 90 seconds as the aptly named Fabulous Flournoy - 11 rebounds and three steals - defied their attempted comeback.
Their coach, Mike Finger, won the 1998 title in his debut season and might be wondering about his decision to return to America after Wembley now the team he put together is gelling. "I think it finally dawned on them that they are a bunch of talented players who faced ending the season with absolutely nothing to show for it," he said.
In a bruising encounter of unrelenting physical contact, only Steve Bucknall, with 20 points, stood toe-to-toe with the Bullets.
The Towers big men backed away from the confrontation with Shawn Jamison, Justin Phoenix, Clive Allen and Emiko Etete, allowing Nigel Lloyd and Joel Burns to rule the backcourt.
London, held to six points in the second quarter and nine in the fourth when they missed all 12 two-point attempts, still had a chance when Jamison missed a free throw at 56-53 with 90 seconds to play.
Jamison gathered his own missed shot, then when Phoenix also missed Flournoy emerged from a scrum of bodies with the ball, allowing Lloyd and Phoenix to complete the win from the free-throw line.Reuse content