TEAM Solent Kestrels made yet more history as they were crowned NBL Division One league champions for the third consecutive season, with a title clinching 91-65 victory over Leicester Warriors.

The 2018-19 season saw Kestrels win the title on a head-to-head record, before going undefeated in last season's campaign, writes Jack O'Keeffe.

And this time around they secured top spot with a game to spare.

Alex Wilson stroked a triple to open the game for the visitors followed by Warriors big man Morakinyo Williams knocking down the short jump shot, however Travis Charles would reply almost immediately for the home side as he scored five straight. Neither team established control of the game early on exchanging scores, with Kestrels Ian Smith and Luke Busumbru scoring in the paint and Williams and Leon Henry matching that on the other end for the Warriors.

Kestrels edged in front 17-14 through Johnathan Lashley but the lead would stand at just two heading into the first quarter break, 21-19 TSK.

Smith briefly pushed the deficit to five with a triple in the second quarter but Kayne King and Williams once again trimmed the gap to one on the following two possessions. An 8-2 run for TSK over the next two minutes would see them take their first meaningful lead of the ball game at 32-25, after Brendan Okoronkwo converted on the and-one opportunity. The lead eventually reached double figures at 37-27 when Smith stroked another three pointer and whilst Carl Pearson responded for Leicester, it was Smith again in fine form from distance who pushed the arrears to 13, 42-29.

Charles extended the advantage momentarily to 16 but the visitors rallied before the half-time interval through Martyn Gayle and Williams to cut the gap to 12 at the break, 49-37.

The sides traded scores in the opening stages of the second half as both Henry and Williams continued their scoring form for the Warriors and Charles for the Kestrels. The momentum did swing back in favour of the hosts however when Elliot Dadds knocked down his second three-pointer of the quarter to put his side up 63-47 and force a Warriors timeout. A trademark 9-2 run to close the period for TSK would see them take full control of the contest heading into the final ten minutes, now 72-49 to the good.

Kestrels opened the fourth with a short 6-2 run through Chris Scarlett and Charles which increased the gap to 27 and although the next two minutes only saw one point on the board, that better suited the home side. After the scoring drought Lashley and Okoronkwo combined for seven straight points to give Kestrels their biggest lead of the game at 28 with just over three minutes remaining. Lashley and Smith would go on to ice the game from the foul line with TSK taking a 91-65 victory and bagging their third league title in a row.

TSK head coach Matt Guymon gave us his thoughts on his side clinching a third successive title. He said: “We knew coming into this game that Leicester were going to be a tough match up and their record doesn’t reflect how dangerous they can be.

"I thought we did a great job in limiting their guard play and their impact on the game, we were able to find our rhythm in spells offensively after a slow start which helped us control the game down the stretch.

"To win our third title in as many seasons is a fantastic achievement for our whole organisation, so many people deserve so much credit for their contributions in particular our sponsors, support staff and the Kestrels family, who we have missed at the Solent Sports Complex.

"We now look forward to what is effectively a new season and the challenges that the play-offs will present us.”

TSK’s balanced scoring effort was led by American forward Charles, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Smith had 17 points and both Busumbru and Lashley added 11 apiece off the bench.

Leicester Warriors' seven-foot man in the middle Williams proved difficult to slow down as he had 27 points for the visitors but former Kestrel, Leon Henry, would be the only other player in double figures with 10.