Manchester Magic capped another excellent season of basketball with a resounding 73-53 victory over Loughborough Student Riders to retain their NBL Division One Playoff crown.
Duane Morgan was in sizzling form for Magic, producing a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds – both game-highs – to be named the final’s Most Valuable Player.
Such was Magic’s dominance, they led the game from start to finish, opening up a huge 42-21 lead in the first half that typified coach Paul Middleton’s attention to detail and emphasis on defence.
Middleton commented: “I didn’t think it would be such a big margin so early in the game, but our aim was to try and hit them hard in the beginning, which I think we did. We knew they’d find it difficult to come back after that.
“They are a dangerous team, very good offensively and they’ve got some good athletes, but I think on the whole we defended quite well and think they don’t match up particularly well with us.”
Loughborough, who were surprise finalists after finishing fifth in the league and defeating top-seeded Team Northumbria in the semis, seemed overawed by the big occasion. They were also hindered by a knee injury to one of their top players, Joshua Ward-Hibbert, limiting him to just four minutes on court.
Although Reiss Pinnock and Levi Noel battled hard in Ward-Hibbert’s absence, Magic’s experience and superior depth proved telling and they refused to give Loughborough so much as a sniff of a comeback.
A bit of a scuffle in the third quarter resulted in a number of unsportsmanlike fouls for both sides and Stefan Gill being ejected, but it was a minor blot on an otherwise excellent day for Magic.
Backing up Morgan’s huge numbers, six other Magic players had six or more points, while Simon Anumba and Ryan Lewis did a superb job of keeping the team in control of rebounds.
Ultimately it was Morgan’s day to shine, with the American forward admirably filling the shoes of Magic’s previous import superstar Ellis Cooper. Morgan produced a couple of highlight dunks and was frequently too much for the Riders to handle around the basket.
Morgan said: “We worked very hard this year and to see it all come together like this is really a huge relief. I felt that I played well but it was a team win. I wasn’t worried about my stats or the MVP trophy – I just wanted to get the win.”
Report by Graeme Roberts