After two consecutive losses, Mersey Tigers nearly suffered a third. But Tony Garbelotto’s squeezed past Cheshire Jets 92-87 on Sunday, surviving a thrilling second half fight back by the hosts at Northgate Arena.

Looking down and out at the half and 17 points adrift, the Jets launched an amazing comeback in one of the best atmospheres and games of the season but ultimately it wasn’t enough as Tigers got back to winning ways after a miserable week.

“I am really very grateful for the victory when you take into account the way that we have been playing recently,” admitted Garbelotto.

“I thought the way we played in the first half was actually the first time we have played anything like the way we were playing before the Christmas period.

“I really have to give a lot of credit to the Jets since we always knew they would make a run and come back at us in the game and that is exactly what they did.

“I also have to give a big up to Andrew Sullivan who as the leader of our team really took the responsibility on his shoulders to get this win.”

Great Britain skipper Sullivan led by example when it mattered down the stretch, hitting 21 points as he dropped a flurry of big triples to keep the Jets at bay and help Tigers secure a much needed win.

Andrew Thomson also impressed with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds while Jeremy Bell continued to showcase his amazing offensive ability for the Jets with a game high 37 points.

The visitors – still without Nate Reinking – came out on top in an entertaining first period 26-21 and then took control during the second quarter as they outscored the home team 27-15 to extend their advantage.

Whatever Paul Smith said to his team in the locker room certainly worked as they raced out of the blocks to more than halve the gap in double quick time with a 16-7 run led by the irrepressible Bell.

That cut the gap to 60-52 and they continued the chase.  With less than two minutes to go, Tigers were sweating in a time out with their led whittled down to 86-84 and just as it looked like the momentum might continue to swing the way of the Jets, up stepped Sullivan to save the day.

He drained back to back three-pointers to stave off what would have been a magnificent turnaround by the hosts as Tigers clung on for the win to move four points clear at the top of the table.

Glasgow Rocks are looking a threat. The Kelvin Hall outfit kept up their pursuit of the leading Mersey-Cheshire axis with a 90-83 win over Plymouth Raiders.

It was a tenth win in 11 BBL outings for Sterling Davis’ men, who raced as much as 17 clear in the first half and never looked back.

Moses Mubarak hit a game-high 18 points for Glasgow who saw their 50-39 half-time lead cut by Plymouth to six in the third quarter before they surged away with an 11-2 run.

“We’re just killing ourselves with bad starts,” said Raiders coach Gavin Love. “It’s not about our preparation. It’s our focus. We’re digging a hole which we can’t get out of and that’s costing us games.”

Elsewhere, Milton Keynes Lions edged out Worcester Wolves 87-85 in a thriller. The hosts were 49-47 in front at half-way but were level in the final minute before Kris Clarks converted the game winner.

Saturday: Eagles drown Thunder out

Newcastle Eagles continued their relentless pursuit of retaining their league title with a resounding 112-67 victory on the south coast at Worthing Thunder.

As has been the pattern in their ten-match winning streak, the Eagles dominated the match from the start as they stormed out to a 27-14 first quarter lead and never looked troubled from then on.

With the match over as a contest Eagles made it a 30-point lead and then 40 on Aaron Neilson’s three. Their advantage peaked at 41 as Fab Flournoy’s men – led by 27 from Joe Chapman – inflicted a ninth consecutive double-digit loss on their hosts.

Daniel Gilbert hit 34 as Worcester Wolves made it back-to-back wins with a hard-fought 87-75 victory over title hopefuls Guildford Heat.

The Wolves used a strong fourth quarter to finally shake off a Heat team that has been in excellent recent form, losing only to a surging Newcastle in 2011. Daniel Gilbert was star of the show for Worcester with 34 points.

Leicester Riders ensured they didn’t slip up on the road with a 93-78 victory at the still winless Essex Pirates.

The Southend-based club kept it tight during the first quarter but once Riders, paced by 25 from Ryan Zamroz, forged ahead there was no way back for the young Pirates side as the visitors ended their own skid.

Friday: Jets hold off wounded Tigers

Cheshire Jets cut Mersey Tigers lead at the top of the BBL to just two points after a dramatic 77-74 win on Friday night at the Echo Arena in the first of their weekend double-header.

Paul Smith’s men picked up where Sheffield Sharks left off in last weekend’s Cup final, piling on the pressure on their hosts with a torrid start but they were forced to battle to the finish following an unexpected fourth quarter revival.

21-15 ahead after the opening quarter, the Jets used a 15-0 burst to leave the Tigers shell-shocked once more before Tafari Toney pierced their legacy with a dunk.

It was another horror show from Tony Garbelotto’s team. Low on confidence, low on performance, minus Nate Reinking, Mersey trailed 42-28 at half-time and looked set to slump once more.

Beware the sleeping Tigers. Nine unanswered points brought the contest back to life and although the visitors led 63-51 at the close of the third quarter, the momentum had swung.

A 12-2 run from Mersey closed the gap to a single point with 3.17 left as Smith called a time-out to halt the barrage but it was left to Drew Sullivan to put his team 72-71 in front.

But Quemont Greer converted a field goal and Jeremy Bell two free-throws as Cheshire edged ahead once more before Sullivan tightened the deficit to 75-74 with 38 seconds left to take his game-best total to 23 points and 11  rebounds.

Frantically, Mersey looked to complete their fightback but it was not to be, with Colin O’Reilly – who hit a team-high 22 points – converting twice from the line in the dramatic finale.

“If we didn’t dig ourselves into such a big hole in the first half,” said Tigers guard Jamaal Williams, “then maybe it could have been a different story.”

Elsewhere,  Newcastle Eagles moved into outright third place with a comfortable 100-91 win at Milton Keynes Lions.

Led by 34 from Joe Chapman, it was a strong second quarter that won the game for the Eagles, as it started with a 12-4 run and 9 points for Charles Smith, who scored 17 of his 25 total in the opening 15 minutes of the game.

Trey Moore and Chapman took over again towards the end of the period: the former hit a three and the latter’s basket made it 53-37 inside the final minute.

The Lions did make a final push late in the game, getting to within seven in the final minute, but they had left themselves too much to do.

Kris Clark led the Lions with 30.

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