NEWCASTLE PULL BACK FROM THE BRINK

Newcastle Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy insists his side will battle to the very end to retain their BBL title after they rebounded from an early deficit to beat Plymouth Raiders 79-78 in Devon.

Charles Smith hit a game-high 21 points as the reigning champions came from 19 points down in the second quarter.

After fighting back to trail 39-31 at half-time, the gap was trimmed to 58-54 at the close of the third and an 8-2 start to the fourth period saw Reggie Jackson edge Eagles ahead with 7:36 remaining. The advantage ebbed and flowed, back and forth, with Newcastle's new arrival Drew Lasker converted two free-throws to level matters once more at 69-69 as the tie entered its final three minutes.

The hosts edged in front again but after Fab Flournoy fouled out, Andrew Bridge and Darius Defoe sparked his team into a 76-74 lead with the forward adding 1/2 from the foul line to give the visitors some breathing room.

Jerome Gumbs – with a team-high 19 points – gave Plymouth hope with a jump shot 12 seconds from the end but, from a time out, Bridge was fouled and he made both. And although Evaldas Zabas did likewise, Newcastle held on for a priceless victory – just 24 hours after surviving a OT thriller against Worcester.

“To win at Worcester was a great achievement as they played hard and were pushing for the play-offs,” said Flournoy. “It was an exciting finish and we were just relieved to come out on top.

“However, to have to come back from playing at Plymouth on your longest road trip of the season when the crowd is really up with their team 19 points ahead, you don’t have your two main scorers and decision maker on courts, you have had to integrate a new player who only joined a few days earlier and the rest of your guys are exhausted from an overtime game the night before is amazing.

“Nobody complained about the situation at the time. We just got it done.”

Regardless of the result, Mersey Tigers can clinch the Championship if they defeat Sheffield at home on Tuesday and then win on Tyneside 24 hours later.

Elsewhere, Glasgow Rocks clinched a play-off spot with an emphatic 98-59 win over Worthing Thunder. And it was a timely bounce back to form for Sterling Davis’ men who picked up only their third win in ten games.

EJ Harrison hit a game-high 19 points as the Rocks raced into a 54-27 half-time lead before ripping lowly Worthing apart with a 20-5 run in the third quarter. 

Sheffield Sharks beat Milton Keynes 83-74 to retain title hopes ahead of their trip to Liverpool on Tuesday.

Atiba Lyons' men were 51-45 behind at the break but Steve Dagostino – who claimed a game-best 25 – sparked a rally to send the visitors 66-62 ahead at the end of the third and en route to victory.

While Cheshire Jets have all but guaranteed themselves fourth place with Gareth Murray firing 18 of his team-best 28 points in the first half as the Northgate outfit rolled to a 117-94 win over Leicester Riders.

 

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