Flyers go all out for league glory after cup hopes end in thriller
THE Bristol Academy Flyers were not able to repeat their league performance away to Tees Valley Mohawks as they were defeated 95-89 in the Trophy semi-final on Sunday.
Doug McLaughlin-Williams scored 23 points and also had nine rebounds for the Flyers, while Mostapha Alfaki added 20 points with six makes from beyond the three-point arc. However it was the league's top scorer and Mohawk player, Jorge Ebanks, who recorded a game-high 31 points in an excellent shooting display.
Flyers started well, scoring 34 points in the opening ten minutes, and by half-time the Bristol side were leading 57-50. However, Mohawks turned on the jets in the second half and helped by the ejection of Flyers' dominant big man, Enrique Garcia, took the advantage for the first time at the end of the third period, 70-67.
Bristol regained the lead in the fourth period, but it was short-lived as Mohawks outscored the Flyers 17-13 in the last five minutes of the game to capture the win.
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Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas, disappointed that his team were not able to reach a second final this year, said: "Losing Enrique (Garcia) early in the third was critical for the outcome of the game. However, we were still able to stay in the game and I was really proud about how our guys fought back and took the lead again in the fourth period.
"We were not able to contain the league's top scorer and gave away a number of easy baskets, especially in the first half, which allowed the Mohawks to gain confidence and stay in the game despite our great offensive performance."
The Bristol Academy Flyers can now focus fully on the league campaign, beginning this weekend with two important away fixtures that will determine a lot in the battle for a top-four finish.
On Saturday. the Flyers travel to Derby to face the Trailblazers at the Moorways Leisure Centre. The sides met in November when Bristol secured a 30-point home victory, but Kapoulas thinks that will have little bearing on the return game.
"Derby are a very different team since we last played them. Coach Maudsley always has his team well-prepared and it's no coincidence that the last three games that they have played have been losses by very narrow margins.
"They always play well against us, especially at Moorways, and I am certain they are looking at our game as an opportunity for them to collect their fifth league win this year."
The following day Bristol will travel to Essex to take on the Leopards, who progressed last week in the National Trophy Final with a win over Hemel Storm. The two teams fought for the league title last season, but have not met yet this campaign. Kapoulas said: "Even though Leopards are in a mid-table position, I think they are one of the teams to look out for going into the final part of the season.
"We have two very difficult away games this weekend. For us to come out with two wins, we need to produce 80 minutes of some of our best defensive performances. Our defensive focus and our ability to shut down the opponents' key scorers will have a huge effect on the outcome of both games."
The Flyers Under-18s are also preparing for their biggest weekend of the year so far as they take on Lewisham Thunder in the Sureshot Cup Final in Manchester.
This is the second time that the Bristol side have reached the Under-18s cup final and head coach Guy Coles is looking forward to the challenge.
"Flyers have established Bristol basketball as one of the best in the country and the game versus Lewisham in the final gives us the opportunity to bring a junior national title to Bristol, which is something that has never been done before in basketball."
The Bristol coach added: "All our Under-18s players study at SGS College and are part of our AASE basketball academy. To bring the cup to Bristol would be a huge success for our club as well as great recognition of the performance pathway that we have developed in the area."
For updates on the men's and Under-18s matches this weekend, you can follow the Bristol Academy Flyers on twitter @BristolFlyers.