Newcastle Eagles path to the title hit a glitch after Glasgow Rocks knocked off British Basketball League leaders Newcastle Eagles 85-77.

It was only the third league defeat suffered by the champions-elect this term but a game-high 25 points from DeAundre Cranston helped power the Rocks as much as 16 clear in the third quarter.

And the Kelvin Hall outfit fought off a late rally from Newcastle to clinch a play-off spot.

Rocks coach Sterling Davis said: “That’s definitely our strongest performance all year and a lot of that’s down to having everyone back and healthy. Now we have to challenge ourselves to duplicate this the rest of the way.”

With captain EJ Harrison back in the side, Glasgow built on a 12-2 start to lead 49-37 at half-time.
And although Newcastle cut the gap to 74-70 with four minutes left, the Rocks stepped up.Paul Gause hit a game-best 24 for the Eagles.

Elsewhere Plymouth Raiders jumped into second place in the table, four points behind Newcastle, with a 93-81 victory over Leicester Riders.

The eventual result didn’t seem on the cards as the Riders started the game well, leaping out into a 14-4 lead with GB captain Drew Sullivan contributing 6 of Leicester’s points. However, after Plymouth hit back, going on 10-0 and 12-0 runs, they were able to head into half-time with a 52-43 lead. Drew Sullivan gave Leicester some hope as he sparked a 10-0 charge that had them back within 3 points of Plymouth with 7:55 left in the third, but Plymouth were able to respond by outscoring them 19-7 to head into the final period leading 75-60. Leicester managed to close the gap a little in the final quarter, reducing the final deficit to 93-81.

Paul Williams led the Raiders scorers with 26 points and also picked up 12 rebounds to achieve a double-double, while Jeremy Bell scored 21 points for the Raiders, but it was Leicester’s Bradd Wierzbicki who led all scorers with 28 points

Cheshire Jets strengthened their bid for a play-off spot by overcoming Guildford Heat 80-75.

After an evenly-fought first two quarters that saw the Heat take a 39-36 lead, Guildford started the second half strongly with a 10-2 run to lead 49-38. However, Cheshire soon responded by going on a 15-0 charge led by 6 points from Adam Brown to lead 61-58 heading into the final period. Cheshire extended the lead to seven in the final stanza, but Guildford had it cut to two heading into the final plays. However, a missed Martelle McLemore three-pointer and a block by Bill Cole on another McLemore shot meant the Jets were able to see the game out at the free throw line.

Adam Brown led all scorers with 30 points for Cheshire, 21 of them coming in the second half as the Jets fought back after trailing by as many as twelve points. His teammate Matt Schneck amassed an impressive double-double of 17 points and 19 rebounds. For the Heat, Tayo Ogedengbe top scored with 20.

Saturday: Plymouth on roll

Plymouth Raiders have made it seven league wins in a row in March after beating the Durham Wildcats 96-85 at the Plymouth Pavilions, maintain the pressure on the Worcester Wolves in second place in the BBL Championship.

It was a tight game throughout, with none of the first three quarters being won by more than two points. Paul Williams led the victors with 22 points and 12 rebounds, with Anthony Rowe adding 21 and 13 boards and Jeremy Bell scoring 15; although it was James Jones who was the difference-maker in the fourth quarter. Paul Elderkin led the Wildcats with 19 points.

The teams vied for the ascendancy in the first half, exchanging the lead on numerous occasions. The Raiders led 7-4 early on as Lehmon Colbert scored 4 points, but the Wildcats posted a 7-0 burst capped by Elderkin’s three-pointer to take a lead that they held until deep in the first quarter as the teams traded baskets. But consecutive scores on the inside from Paul Williams and Anthony Rowe put the hosts back in front at 19-17, only for Elderkin to respond with another triple. That wasn’t enough as the Raiders scored the next 5 points, again through Williams and Rowe, with an ‘and one’ play from the latter, to lead 24-22 at the end of the first quarter.

And it was that inside duo who continued to cause trouble for the visitors as the Raiders established a 30-25 lead early in the second stanza, Williams dunking before Rowe scored 4 more points to take himself to 11 as the hosts scored 22 of their first 30 points in the paint. But the Wildcats began to handle that threat as neither of them scored for nearly five minutes and Durham hit back with an 11-2 surge to lead 32-36, Elderkin scoring 5 of those including his third three-pointer of the first half. That forced James Jones to hit the first triple of the game for the Raiders, to end that run, and they came through adversity again to post a 9-2 run with Colbert scoring 4 in a row to put them back in front at 41-38, and they led 45-44 at the half.

Rowe scored the first 4 points of the second half but DJ Glavan responded in kind as the Wildcats stuck with their hosts. And they were soon back in front as Mario Flaherty and Elderkin scored in what was a three minute barren spell for the hosts. Four lead changes ensued until Ralph Bucci’s three-pointer made the score 57-59 inside the last four minutes of the third. But again the hosts finished the period strongly: Williams tied the teams at 63 and they were still tied at 67 heading into the decisive quarter as Jeremy Bell scored 4 points in the final minute.

Chris Pearce opened the fourth with a three-pointer, before another series of five lead changes. But James Jones decided the game with 6.34 to play as he hit back-to-back three-pointers for the Raiders, to put them up 79-74. And they didn’t trail again from there, using an 8-2 run down the stretch to see the lead reach double figures at 91-81 capped by Anthony Martin – who had 13 assists on the night – hitting a triple.

Friday: Eagles close in

Newcastle Eagles have won four BBL Championship games in a row as they were largely in control in beating the MK Lions 101-92 at Sport Central. The Lions have lost seven straight road games and drop out of the top eight after the Jets won elsewhere.

The Eagles were led once more by 28 points from Charles Smith, with Andrew Thomson adding 20 points and 10 rebounds. They took charge through an early 11-4 run that included 5 points for Joe Chapman and helped them to a 29-20 first quarter lead. They pushed their advantage into double digits when Thomson made four free-throws after Bolds was called for a technical foul and led 46-28 on Smith’s three-pointer before the half.

The Lions narrowed the gap in the third, but the Eagles held their nerve, epitomised by Thomson’s three-pointer on the buzzer that pushed their lead back out to 76-61. But that wasn’t enough to deflate their visitors, despite the Eagles soon extending the lead to its peak at 21 at 84-63 on another Thomson score as they looked to be cruising at 88-70 heading into the final five minutes. But they had to withstand one last push from the Lions, who hit them with an 11-4 run as Nuno Pedroso scored 5 straight points. The game would get as close as 96-88 on a pair of Northern free-throws before a scrappy finale ensued with Gause, Thomson and Chapman seeing the game out from the free-throw line.

Elsewhere, Leicester Riders have decisively won the head-to-head with the Worcester Wolves, with whom they are currently vying for one of the top spots in the BBL Championship, after beating them 91-68 in the East Midlands, making it three league wins in a row and four straight home victories. They also condemned the Wolves to their first defeat in nine games.

The Riders outgunned the Wolves in the second and third quarters after a tight opening. Cameron Rundles led the way with 27 points, while Bradd Wierzbicki added 26 and 7 assists. The Wolves were led by Richie Gordon’s 27 points and 13 rebounds, while Tommy Freeman scored 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter, and it’s perhaps no surprise that the Wolves’ fortunes matched his.

Early scores from Freeman had given the Wolves a 12-5 lead, only for the hosts to respond with a 12-2 surge, before a Freeman triple tied the game at 21 after the opening ten minutes.

The Riders edged in front early in the second stanza, taking a 30-23 lead on a 9-2 opening which included threes for Rundles and Wierzbicki. And they went on to lead by the largest margin of the first half at 49-40 at the break after scoring 5 straight points in the last minute including an ‘and one’ play from Lamble. The hosts capitalised on that momentum to push their lead through the double-digit mark at 52-42 immediately in the third quarter as Wierzbicki matched Lamble with an old-fashioned three-point play. From there the Riders didn’t look back: they used a 9-2 run to lead 65-48 with Drew Sullivan hitting a three-pointer and the lead reached 72-53 on Ayron Hardy’s basket.

They took a 74-56 lead into the decisive quarter and the game was all-but-over as they opened the period with another 12-2 push, including another 7 points for Wierbicki, to lead 86-58. That was where the lead peaked as the Riders saw the game out in comfort.

Finally, Cheshire Jets have jumped into the BBL Championship playoff spots after inflicting a third straight defeat on Sheffield, winning 78-72 at the English Institute of Sport. That result levelled the head-to-head between the teams, with the deciding game to come on the final day of the regular season.

Adam Brown turned in a match-winning performance with 22 points and 7 assists, with Matt Schneck adding 16 points and 7 rebounds. The Sharks were led by a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds from Mike Tuck.

It didn’t always look that way as the Sharks dominated the first half, leading 35-24 after Olu Babalola score the last 5 in a 9-0 burst. They had led 37-30 at the break, but it all went wrong immediately afterwards. The Jets opened with a 9-2 surge to tie the game at 39 on Brown’s triple and they soon found themselves leading for the first time since the opening quarter when Schneck scored a pair of free-throws. A Tuck three-pointer halted the Jets, but not for long as Kai Williams and Adam Brown put them up by 4 at 45-49.

Late in the game the Jets used a decisive 11-4 run to win the game with Brown and Cole sharing 9 points as it was capped by a three-point play from the former. That left the Sharks with too much to do trailing 61-68 within the final two minutes, despite Ryan Patton narrowing the gap with a three-pointer. But they could get no closer as the Jets saw the game out with 8/12 free-throws down the stretch.

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