Newcastle Eagles will meet Sheffield Sharks in the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy after both sides topped their first round groups.

Glasgow Rocks pulled off a surprise 76-70 win over Newcastle on Sunday at the Kelvin Hall but it failed to prevent their inevitable exit as Fab Flournoy’s side topped their group.

Sterling Davis’ men had stayed alive in the competition by beating Durham 24 hours earlier but were always unlikely to achieve the 23-point margin of victory required to reach the last four by overhauling their visitors.

Although Glasgow – led by a game-high 24 points from EJ Harrison – produced their most impressive display of the season so far, Rocks player-coach Sterling Davis was left to ponder his options before his team gets its league championship campaign under way next weekend.

“I’ve told our guys just to focus on just winning games,” said Davis. “If you can build a winning habit, then everything else will take care of itself. We’re still up and down. We were a different team here than we were at Durham 24 hours earlier. But this is all preparation for the regular season and being as competitive then as possible.”

A technical foul on Scotland captain Gareth Murray cost Glasgow dearly as former Rocks forward Charles Smith reeled off seven consecutive points to tie the contest at 50-50. And although Murray hit a three-pointer that extended the home cushion to 71-63 with four minutes left, Newcastle’s primary mission was long since accomplished. Paul Gause paced Newcastle with 20.

Worcester Wolves kept alive their chances of making the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy when triumphing 96-85 at the previously unbeaten Plymouth Raiders on Sunday afternoon.

Plymouth came into the game in confident mood having convincingly won at Worcester 85-62 a week previously. In that game Raiders dominated play around both baskets, but on this occasion it was a much more even affair.

Kazlauskas impressed for Worcester

Forward Carlos Fernandez celebrated his return to full fitness with six early points as both sides traded baskets for much of the opening period. A David Watts three-pointer for the Wolves gave them the lead at 21-20, with Callum Jones slotting home for a 23-20 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Wolves were forced to begin the second quarter with their starting point guard Sherrad Prezzie-Blue on the bench in foul trouble, this re-adjustment helping Plymouth to take the lead at 26-23. Although the home side still led 30-29 at midway through the period, this was to be their last advantage in the match.

By the end of the half, Prezzie-Blue had already accumulated 12 points and one of last week’s stars for the Raiders, 6 foot 7 inch Lehmon Colbert had already been called for his third foul, as a 45-32 lead was established.

With Wolves’ own big man Richie Gordon combining well with veteran Lithuanian forward Arnas Kazlauskas to control the ball close to the basket, the visitors continued to extend their lead, taking the score out to 57-36 four minutes into the third quarter. Matters worsened for the Raiders when Colbert was forced to leave play after picking up his fourth foul. With Tommy Freeman finding his aim from distance, Worcester were able to head into the final quarter ahead at 76-51.

Plymouth tried valiantly to get themselves back into the game, at one stage closing the gap to just 10 points. However a steadying time out from Wolves coach Paul James at just over a minute remaining, with his side leading 94-82, helped the visitors hold on for the all-important victory.

”After what happened last week I tried a new starting line-up of Carlos, Tommy, Arnas, Sherrad and Richie,” said James. “We had better all-round shape and rotation from the bench. The team played well, and we made shots that have been missing in other games. This was an excellent win for the Wolves.”

Gordon led the Wolves’ scorers with 22 points whilst also claiming 10 rebounds

Milton Keynes Lions secured a highly impressive 113-72 victory over London Leopards at the MK Basketball Centre on Sunday evening with Demarius Bolds the star performer for the victors as he bagged himself a team-high 36 points.  The game was one way traffic for the most part with the Lions opening up an early 12-3 lead before a 10-0 burst to start the second quarter ended any real hope of the non-league Leopards causing an upset.

There were also two games in the BBL Championship which saw Sheffield Sharks and Leicester Riders open their accounts in the League defeating the Guildford Heat and Cheshire Jets respectively.

Nate Reinking’s 35 points for the Sharks helped them to a 86-75 victory over the Heat at the Surrey Sports Park where a big 17-3 burst in the second quarter took the score out to 36-21 and the Sharks never looked back despite some resilience from the Heat to try and get themselves right back into the contest but to no avail.

Leicester picked up a big 80-59 victory over the ailing Jets at the Northgate Arena on Sunday evening.  19 points from Bradd Wierzbicki gave the visitors the impetus to go on and secure the all-important victory and put themselves on top of the table with the Sharks and Eagles after the first weekend of Championship action.

SATURDAY: Sullivan shines on debut

Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan stamped his class on proceedings to rack up a terrific line on debut for Leicester Riders as they swept aside London Leopards 104-78 in BBL Trophy Group 3.

Sullivan was unstoppable both inside and out as he poured in 30 points including a phenomenal five of six from three-point range while also adding 8 rebounds.

Stepping up from EBL as guest participants in the competition, Leopards kept pace with Riders in a superb opening but perhaps not surprisingly, didn’t have enough depth to continue in that vein, nor anybody to stop Sullivan.

Elsewhere, Glasgow Rocks squeezed past Durham Wildcats 91-86 with guard duo EJ Harrison and Mychal Green combining for 47 points.

Durham again showed they are worthy of a place at the top table since their step up from the EBL during the summer. They pushed their opponent hard and made life immensely difficult.

Fred Hinnenkamp and Mike Capocci continued their impressive run of form since landing with Wildcats last month with grabbing 18 points while Mario Flaherty top-scored with 20.

FRIDAY: Sheffield advance

Newcastle Eagles, runners-up in the league last season, stated their BBL Championship intentions with an 85-64 defeat of the Guildford Heat in the league’s curtain-raiser.

Andrew Thomson led the way with 22 points, while Darius Defoe had a double-double of 13 points and 17 rebounds.

The Eagles led 10-5 early on and never looked back; it went through the double-digit mark before the first quarter was done as a Joe Chapman score made it 25-12 after ten minutes. The Heat would not get back to within single-digits for the remainder of the game, and the lead peaked at 73-48 on Andrew Bridge’s free-throw with 6:16 to play. The Heat had 30 turnovers in the game, from which the Eagles scored 17 points.

Elsewhere, Sheffield Sharks progressed to the BBL Trophy semi-finals with a perfect record after a late rally saw them overcome the Mersey Tigers by 84-81 in overtime.

Both Justin Dobbins and Mike Tuck recorded double-doubles for the Sharks: the former with 28 points and 12 rebounds, the latter with 12 points and 16 boards.

Momentum swung like a pendulum in the game as the Sharks’ 12-2 start was cancelled out by 10 points from James Griffiths that helped tie the game at 16. The Tigers then posted a 13-2 burst in the second stanza to take a strong lead themselves, but were pegged back to 37-39 on a Colin Sing three-pointer.

The Sharks regained the lead with a 10-2 third quarter run, but still trailed at the end of the period and by six points heading into the last two minutes. But they would score all the points from thereon with Mike Tuck levelling it at 72 and forcing overtime.

Once in the additional period, the Sharks established an immediate lead, through Jimmy Langhurst, that they would not relinquish. They led 79-74 on Reinking’s triple – a dagger against the team with whom he won the BBL Trophy last season – and, despite a late score when Aliu hit a three-pointer, the Sharks saw the game out.

However Mersey coach Tony Garbelotto was pleased with the progress his side is making.

“Again, we played considerably better than I anticipated,” he said. “We had conditioned extremely hard over the week and had some very tired players out there.

“Calvin [Davis] picked up an early injury and that impacted on the team even more. Again, we showed a lot of intensity and desire against a very good team. I can’t say that anyone of our players played great, it was more of a collective effort.

“For Sheffield, Justin Dobbins again dominated but it will be a much bigger test for him next week against Newcastle. We are still one big man down to compete with him.”

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