A DEPLETED Morpeth Magic basketball team defied all the odds to lift the silverware after a stunning cup final performance.
Magic were minus three key players and came up against a full-strength Phoenix team in the TyneMet League division three Knockout Cup final.
And even then they did it the hard way, finding themselves 11 points down early in the third quarter.
Yet they refused to throw in the towel and fought back magnificently to turn the deficit into a nine-point win, dominating the final quarter to win 76-67.
There was no doubt who stole the limelight as Magic’s teenage star Eddie Matthew turned in a sensational performance to score 50 of his side’s 76 points.
Indeed there was a spell midway through the game when he scored eight successive baskets.
As Phoenix assistant coach Paul Honour admitted later: “Eddie was unstoppable today.”
But while Matthew took the MVP honour, the win would not have been possible if he had not received unstinting support throughout from his team-mates.
At times it seemed like the Alamo as Phoenix, running their deep bench while Magic were running on empty, swarmed forward.
But it was Magic’s defence which proved crucial in turning the tide as they stood firm, especially in the third and fourth quarters.
That defensive effort was characterised by captain fantastic John Freeman, whose nine blocks did as much as Matthew’s 50-point haul to break the spirit of their Birtley opponents, while he also weighed in with nine points.
The victory was an early birthday present for Freeman.
After going up to receive the trophy from league chairman Mark Patton, Freeman said: “I’m almost 30 and this is the first honour I’ve won in the game.
“It was a fantastic effort by all of the guys.”
Despite some sloppy play in the first quarter when they turned the ball over too often for coach Chris Applewhite’s liking, Magic led by one going into the second period.
But the second quarter was to be Phoenix’s best and, when they went off at the break leading 39-30, it appeared that Magic were facing an uphill battle.
But Morpeth had given themselves a glimmer of hope as they narrowed the gap to just four points at 55-51 going into the final quarter.
That was when Magic ramped up their defence to give themselves a platform to push for victory.
An 11-0 run ended with Lawrie Thompson sank a three-pointer which brought Phoenix to their knees and gave Magic a five-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
And their opponents’ frustration at seeing the game slipping away from them was underlined when Phoenix coach Jack Honour fouled out on a technical in the last minute.
Magic’s win prevented Phoenix from completing a clean sweep of cup final wins, with their division two and division four teams both triumphant on the day.
But that mattered little to the Magic who were content to savour a thoroughly deserved victory earned because they refused to buckle in the face of adversity.
Morpeth Magic scorers: Matthew 50, Freeman 9, P Thompson 7, L Thompson 5, Collingwood 5.