NEWCASTLE TIGHTEN GRIP ON TITLE

Newcastle Eagles continued their progress to regaining the BBL Championship with a comfortable 95-82 win at Cheshire Jets.

The match seemed to be over at the end of the third quarter with Eagles leading 87-53 but Jets limited the visitors to just eight final stanza points to make the margin more respectable.

Earlier the Eagles had moved out to an 18-12 lead before stretching their advantage to 36-20 after 10 minutes – Andrew Thomson 21 points including five of five three pointers in this spell on his return to the north-west.

 

Newcastle made nine of nine three point shots to be 41-26 on top early in the second quarter before ending the half with a healthy 64-42 lead.

And they expanded their advantage to over 30 points by the end of the third quarter, which allowed Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy the luxury of giving his bench players some time on court.

EJ Harrison and Mychal Green hit 25 points apiece as Glasgow Rocks tightened their grip on fifth place in the British Basketball League with a 101-88 victory at Milton Keynes Lions.

It gave the Kelvin Hall outfit their third consecutive win after they upset Leicester Riders 89-79 in the Midlands on Saturday. And the double handed player-coach Sterling Davis a huge boost as his side builds for the play-offs.

With Harrison and Green now free of injury and reunited in the Glasgow backcourt, the Rocks surged clear of Milton Keynes in the fourth quarter after giving up an early advantage.

The visitors had left by 10 early on before the Lions roared back to lead 47-46 at half-time. However a 19-4 run gave Davis’ men an unassailable cushion.

Plymouth Raiders title hopes took another knock as they were stunned 95-85 at Guildford Heat.

The match became Heat’s in the third quarter as the home team outscored Raiders 32-18 in the penultimate period.  A 21-4 run took the score from 54-52 in Plymouth’s favour to 73-58 in the Heat’s.

It gave Guildford a 74-66 advantage, which Raiders worked hard to try and close. With six minutes to play they still trailed by eight and threes by Mike Martin and McLemore made the match safe.

Mersey Tigers won the battle at the bottom of the BBL with a strong finish to the match against Durham Wildcats to come out 79-68 victors.

The visiting Tigers had trailed by one heading into the final quarter but having taken the lead at 64-62 with five minutes to play they went on an 11-0 burst to take the game away from their hosts.

Friday: Newcastle tighten title grip

The intensity of the BBL Championship was evident on a tempestuous Friday night as the Newcastle Eagles outgunned Plymouth Raiders in overtime, with both Sheffield and Worcester Wolves using strong second half performances to win.

The Eagles demonstrated their BBL Championship credentials once more as they dug deep to beat the Raiders 94-103 in one of the games of the season at the Plymouth Pavilions. The fact that these teams meet in the BBL Trophy Final next month only adds to the excitement.

The Eagles have now won 11 games in a row since the turn of the year, while the defeat was the Raiders’ first at home in their last 9 outings. Newcastle were led by Darius Defoe’s 25 points and 21 rebounds – perhaps the performance of his career – while Joe Chapman scored 20 and Andrew Thomson had a double-double of 16 points and 10 boards. Jeremy Bell led the Raiders with 26 points.

The Eagles took a double-digit lead after a 12-2 burst in the first quarter, behind two ‘and one’ plays from Defoe, and held that for much of the first three periods. However, a 17-4 fourth quarter run from the Raiders saw them snatch an astonishing lead, and they were up 88-83 within the final 30 seconds.

But a Paul Gause basket with 19 seconds remaining, followed by Williams missing 2/2 from the line for the hosts, left the door open for Charles Smith to return to haunt the Raiders as he hit a triple on the buzzer to force overtime. The Eagles were decisive in overtime as they took the lead immediately and never looked back as they went on an 11-3 run.

Elsewhere, it was a tale of two amazing third quarters that saw the Wolves and Sharks win.

The Sharks beat the MK Lions 110-87 to win back-to-back games for the first time since December, when they also beat the Lions, after four previous defeats in February. The defeat sees the Lions lose their fourth straight game in the month.

The Sharks won the second half by 28 points to turn round a half time deficit. Jimmy Langhurst led the scoring for the hosts with 34 points, while Mike Tuck and Zach Gachette had 24 points each. Stefan Gill paced the Lions with 21 points.

The Lions had led through the majority of the first half and were up 43-38 by the half way point. However, that would provide few clues as to what would come.

The Sharks came out a different team in the third quarter, turning the game completely on its head. After chipping away through the first five minutes to tie the game up, they finished the third quarter with a 17-4 surge that included 10 points for Gachette to lead 74-60, nearly doubling their first half score in the third quarter alone.

Finally, the Worcester Wolves completed a season sweep over the Durham Wildcats as a powerful second half saw them come out 90-70 winners in the north east of England as they try to stay in touch with Newcastle at the summit of the BBL Championship table. The result saw the Wolves win their third straight game, while the Wildcats were condemned to their third straight defeat.

Tommy Freeman led the Wolves with 29 points, supported by 18 from Richie Gordon and 15 from Sherrad Prezzie-Blue. The hosts were led by Mario Flaherty’s efforts as he scored 19 points.

The game swung like a pendulum through the first half as, first, the Wolves led by ten before the Wildcats narrowed the deficit to one by the halfway point. But Freeman had 24 points by the end of the third as the Wolves used an 11-0 surge to pull away.

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