Third-straight cup final defeat is so difficult to take – Kapoulas
THE Bristol Academy Flyers suffered a heartbreaking loss on Sunday at Ponds Forge as Leeds Carnegie produced an incredible late comeback to claim the 2013 Sportcover National Cup final.
Carnegie scored the final 14 points of the game – all inside of the last two-and-a-half minutes – as they erased a 12-point deficit in that period and took the lead in the final 15 seconds to win 66-64.
In the closing seconds of the game, Flyers captain Greg Streete drove the length of the court and put up a runner from the middle of the lane that rimmed out, Enrique Garcia could only tip the ball straight up in the air on the rebound and as the ball rolled away the final buzzer sounded, sparking huge celebrations on the Leeds bench and big disappointment on the Bristol side.
Bristol started the game well and showed their intentions early by securing a three-point lead at the end of the first period.
Flyers extended the lead further at the start of the second quarter with triples from Fran Robles and Jack Griffiths. It was a three-pointer from the eventual Leeds hero and game MVP Henry Wilkins that ended the scoring in the first half and brought the scores level at 30-30 going into the locker rooms.
Another big run for Bristol spanning the third-quarter break looked to have clinched the game. The Flyers outscored Leeds 21-2 from the midpoint of the third quarter until there were just eight minutes left in the game. But in the end, this just set the scene for Carnegie's amazing comeback.
Flyers captain Streete was simply inspirational producing one of his all-time best Flyers performances with 19 points, while Fran Robles and Doug McLaughlin-Williams added 12 and nine points respectively.
England Basketball Under-16 player of the year Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye, who is also an SGS college AASE student, collected his award at the half-time of the women's National Cup final and showed that his future is bright helping the Flyers with a seven-point and four-assist performance in 25 minutes of action.
Flyers head coach Andreas Kapoulas, who saw his team suffer a heart-breaking loss, was clearly disappointed, but took the opportunity to talk about the character of his team:
He said: "This was probably one of our toughest losses ever. We played a great game and I am so proud of my players.
"I really feel we deserved to win this game. We controlled the rhythm of the game for 36 minutes, however in the last four minutes, due to external factors that were out of our control, the whole game turned upside down. Our captain Greg Streete was truly amazing today. He led the team and demonstrated that he is one of the best players of his generation.
"I am so proud of all the guys and I wish I could do something to take the pain away as I really feel we did not deserve this.
"On the positive side, today we had one of the best basketball performances that we had in the last couple of months. If we can put this disappointment behind us and bring this quality of play in the remaining two competitions, league and trophy, we can, hopefully, finish the season in a much brighter note."
Bristol will need to put their third consecutive cup final loss behind them very quickly as they face one of their most crucial weekends in the Vcars.co.uk Division One.
Sunday's home game to Tees Valley (5pm) could bring Bristol one step closer to a top-four finish and a home play-off spot.