The 2010-11 BBL Championship season tipped off on Merseyside as last season’s playoff champions – the Mersey Tigers – comprehensively thrashed reigning league champions Newcastle Eagles 80-58 to send out an ominous message to the rest of their rivals.

Great Britain Captain, and former Eagle, Andrew Sullivan was inspirational for the Tigers as he scored 26 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.

The Tigers made the decisive run in the second quarter as they held their visitors scoreless for large parts of the period. A James Jones steal and score on a coast-to-coast, followed by the same player feeding Drew Sullivan for an ‘and-one’ play, made the score 34-25. It became 38-25 as Sullivan scored his seventeenth point of the first half to cap a 14-0 surge. They started the third period with a 9-4 run and never looked back from there.

Sunday also saw four BBL Trophy games take place. The Cheshire Jets recorded their first win as they avenged last week’s loss to the Worcester Wolves by beating them 84-78 in the North West. The Jets were led by Quemont Greer’s 21 points, supported by a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds from Matt Schneck.

There were close finishes in the other three games. The Glasgow Rocks changed the dynamics of their BBL Trophy group as they scored their first win in the competition, coming from behind in the final minute to beat Sheffield 80-76 after the hosts had earlier thrown away a 17-point cushion.

Elsewhere, JR Blount scored with four seconds remaining to see Leicester Riders beat Milton Keynes 88-87 on the road. The Riders had been 10 points down heading into the last three minutes, before former Lion Tony Windless inspired their comeback. Anthony Simpson led their scoring with 23 points.

Plymouth Raiders overturned a fourth quarter deficit to record their second win in the BBL Trophy as they beat the Guildford Heat 90-83 in the South West. The lead changed hands at the end of each quarter in a tight game that saw 16 lead changes and the teams tied on 10 occasions. Cody Toppert made the game-winning plays with consecutive three-pointers within the last three minutes, as the score became 81-76 with 1.41 to play after the Heat had led by six.

Newcastle Eagles eventually overcame Sheffield Sharks in a double-overtime thriller on Friday to take control of BBL Trophy group 4 in their debut at their new Northumbria University home.

The hosts fought back from trailing by 13 points late in the third quarter to tie the match at 89-89 at the end of regulation before a further five minutes were needed after the score was locked 97-97 at the end of the first overtime.

Joe Chapman is building on a Player of the Year season

Eagles were always struggling to keep check of the Sharks in the first quarter, but through Joe Chapman they managed to level the score at 23-23 after 10 minutes.

An 8-0 run by Sheffield to begin the second period put Atiba Lyons’ team in control. However, Joe Chapman who has clearly returned from the summer break intent on displaying his talents to European and American scouts, knocked down three consecutive threes to give Eagles a 32-31 lead.

Sharks have plenty of long-range threats themselves. Ryan Patton connected from the corner and Marcus Stout was impressive at both ends of the court to lead Sheffield on a 14-10 finish to the half and a 45-42 interval advantage.

Stout continued to be Sharks’ main threat throughout the third quarter. With Mike Tuck having an off night and battling foul trouble it was Stout who paced Sheffield’s offence.

Two three pointers late in the period by Stout opened up a 69-56 lead before Eagles Andre Lockhart trimmed the gap by two as the teams headed into the final quarter.

Charles Smith put Eagles ahead 78-77 to cap a 22-8 run to start the fourth quarter and the teams could hardly be separated after that.

As the BBL Trophy groups begin to take shape, Mersey Tigers were made to work hard and overcame a twelve-point deficit at half time to win 72-70 at Worcester Wolves.

A 24-8 run from the Wolves took the score out to 42-30 over the Tigers, but the visitors came out all guns blazing in the second half and restricted the home side to just nine points in the third period to lead by a point at 49-48 heading into the final stanza.  In the final period, both sides traded baskets and a 6-2 run from the Wolves tied the game at 70-70 with 49 seconds remaining, but a foul from the Wolves on Tafari Toney sent the Tigers player to the foul line where he held his nerve and bagged both of his free throws with 44 seconds left to lead 70-72.  The Wolves had the opportunity to snatch the victory right at the end, but the three-point attempt from Rod Middleton fell just short and the Tigers held on for the victory.

Tim Lewis is still looking for a first Essex win.

Leicester Riders had it somewhat easier as they ran out comfortable 98-70 winners over the Essex Pirates in Southend. The visitors led for the majority of the game enjoying an 11-2 burst in the second period to take the score out to 42-29 and despite an 11-2 run from the home side in the final period the visitors held on for the comfortable victory.

In the other game, Guildford Heat also had to come from behind to secure a 79-76 victory over the Worthing Thunder.

Both teams traded baskets throughout the early going, but a 20-5 run from the home side across the half-time break took the score out to 57-50 midway through the third quarter.

11 points from Evaldas Zabas helped the Wolves to re-take the lead at 71-72 with 3:29 remaining in the final quarter.  Both sides traded baskets in the closing stages before Mansour Mbeye bagged one of his free-throws to tie the game at 75-75 with two minutes remaining, but a three-pointer from David Schneider gave the Heat the lead at 78-75 with 1:17 left and despite a valiant attempt from Worthing to re-take the lead, the Heat held on for the victory.

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