Bullets Hit the Mark!
78 is Peugeot Birmingham Bullets' lucky number, after it proved enough to win them the Budweiser Championship for the second time in three years. Victory by three points over the Thames Valley Tigers in the Championship Final at the Wembley Arena, allowed Birmingham to regain the prize they won when beating Exide London Towers 78-72 in 1996. The result means that for the first time, no team has scored a double victory in the four domestic prizes and for rookie coach Mike Finger, a Wembley triumph to match that of his predecessor and friend Nick Nurse.
Bullets burst out to an 11-0 lead and Tigers were struggling to keep up when 27-18 down after the first quarter. They scored the first six points of the second period, but with MVP Tony Dorsey hitting seven straight points mid-quarter, Bullets were still clear at half-time. Five points from Casey Arena contributed to the 12-2 start Thames Valley enjoyed to the second half and after that it was a game of inside attrition, with Tigers trying to counter the handicap of injury to forward John McCord. Bullets scored the 3rd quarter's last four points for a useful 62-56 advantage and with a 6-3 start to the last quarter, Birmingham led by nine. A 7-0 Tigers' rally cut their deficit to 68-66 with 3:59 left and they responded with a Dameon Page three point play after four straight free-throws by Nigel Lloyd and left Bullets 74-69 ahead with 1:12 to go. Page then struck from the arc when four consecutive Dorsey points had put Bullets 78-72 up 0:18 from time, but one final enormous three-point heave from Tigers' Tony Holley as time expired bounced back from the ring to send Bullets into raptures of joy.
"Our guys were up to the challenge of a great game," Finger said. "We were just good enough to get it done tonight. I can't say enough about our veteran players coming through like they did at the end. I've been fortunate to work with a great group of players this years, who were prepared to let Tony and Nigel do their thing but step up themselves when we needed them."
James echoed his adversary's thoughts. "You only have to look at where the club is this year in relation to last. We've come forward and guys like Tony, John and Jason have stepped up all year. I have a good group of players and I hope we're going to bring the nucleus back next season."
Tony Dorsey (Bir) had 28 points and 7 rebounds
Reggie Kirk (Bir) had 18 points
Nigel Lloyd (Bir) had 16 points, 5 steals and 9 rebounds
John McCord (TVT) had 24 points and 6 rebounds
Dameon Page (TVT) had 19 points and 6 rebounds
Tony Holley (TVT) had 13 points and 13 rebounds
Basketball League Archive