TCS Chester Jets 68, Brighton Bears 66: CHESTER Jets made history in Sheffield on Saturday by becoming the first club to win the BBL Trophy for four consecutive seasons - and they did so in dramatic fashion.
Of all Jets' Trophy triumphs, this was arguably the greatest considering the quality of the opposition and their own injury problems at the Hallam FM Arena.
Bears, who look likely to wrap up this year's league title, boast a nine-man deep rotation which was expected to hurt Jets' walking wounded, and the holders, for once, went into the final as underdogs.
The omens did not look good as they took to the court with the dominant Calvin Davis limping, with his injured right leg heavily strapped. But Davis started brightly, sinking his first shot and lasting more than five minutes before taking his first breather as Billy Singleton, who again produced a big-game show, entered the fray.
The first quarter ended 21-21 and, with defences on top, more than two minutes of scoreless play elapsed early in the second quarter after Mike Brown's three-pointer edged Bears ahead.
Jets were glad that captain John McCord then embarked on a purple patch, netting 12 of his 19 points in the second quarter.
McCord was leading his Bears markers a merry dance as he slipped through their rearguard to score from a series of improbable angles, and it was a performance that would ultimately end in an MVP award for the skipper.
As half-time came, the scores were still deadlocked at 38-38 but Jets' hopes seemed to suffer a major setback early in the quarter as McCord was 'taken out'.
An unsavoury American Football-style challenge from Bears' Rico Alderson, which somehow went unpunished by the officials, forced McCord to the sidelines for treat-ment and, in his absence, Brighton built-up a seven-point advantage, the biggest lead of the game.
Mike Nurse kept Jets in touch (55-53) with a massive buzzer-beating three-pointer at the close of the third, which would mean as much psychologically to Jets' play-ers as it did to the scoreline.
Neither side could maintain the upper hand in the final period as the lead changed five times. But among the frenetic play, Jets' player-assistant coach James Hamilton still found time to jig as he netted from downtown - an action seen as a reference to the Bears players dancing when they beat Jets in the league last month.
With 1:43 remaining on the clock, Jets' surge to victory began with Bears' Andrew Alleyne fouling out and Mc-Cord hitting one from two from the free-throw line, bringing them within a point (66-65).
More than a minute of scoreless play followed but, crucially, the pendulum swung as the ever-alert Ryan Huntley intercepted a wayward pass, feeding Davis to put Jets 67-66 ahead with just 31.9 seconds to go.
It was apt that Davis should prove the match-winner in the circumstances as it was his bravery to play, despite being barely mobile, that typified Jets' dogged fighting spirit and steadfast stubbornness to relinquish a trophy they now regard as a personal possession.
With 5.6 seconds left, a shot from Bears' top-scorer Kendrick Warren rimmed out and Davis snatched the defensive board, drawing a foul from a desperate Alderson. But the drama was far from over as the Texan centre made his first shot from the line but missed his second, allowing Bears one final opportunity to snatch the verdict or force overtime. A surge towards Jets' hoop resulted in a Mike Brown effort slipping out and Alderson slotting in the re-bound, just after the final buzzer had sounded.
With Bears' players and coaching staff haranguing him to give the equalising score, referee Roger Harrison leapt over the boards to consult the table officials. He strutted back with the drama of a Roman Emperor giving the thumbs up or down, before making the 'no basket' sign to declare Jets victors.
Jets' scorers: John McCord (19), Mike Nurse (13), Billy Singleton (11), Calvin Davis (9), Ryan Huntley and James Hamilton (both 8).
Bears' scorers: Kendrick Warren (17), Mike Brown (14), Rico Alderson (12), Andrew Alleyne (9), Yorick Williams (8), Sullivan Phillips (4), Jason Siemon (2).