Newcastle Eagles remain top of the BBL after a brilliant 77-76 win over Glasgow Rocks to move firmly into the driving seat heading into the final two months of the campaign.

And the momentum is now with the Tyneside outfit who dug deep and fought hard to rally from the brink to see off their closest challengers.

It all looked impossible when the hosts closed the first half with a 9-0 burst to lead 50-36 and extended their lead to as much as 16 at the outset of the third.

However a 13-3 run from the league champions re-ignited the contest and helped the gap to 65-55 at the outset of the fourth. Defensively, Darius Defoe was immense. He was not alone. And even without Joe Chapman and Fab Flournoy, the visitors unsettled the Rocks with a sustained push and Charles Smith cut the deficit to 71-69 with 3.30 left.

Kadiri Richard squandered the chance to level by missing two free throws but moments later, Trey Moore tied the game from the line at 73-73.

In a thrilling finish, Newcastle twice went 1 in front through Moore, leaving the Rocks 1 down coming out of a time-out with 8.3 seconds left. However, they held firm to reel off a 14th consecutive win as Nick Livas – who hit a team-high 20 – missed a potential game-winning shot as Glasgow reflected on a downfall they themselves engineered.

“I can’t explain it,” Rocks coach Sterling Davis admitted. “We didn’t get the stops at the end that we needed and we didn’t make them work. Charles Smith and Trey Moore did a great job for them but this is definitely a big chance lost.

“I can think of a couple of things we could have done differently but the fact is we came out sluggish in the second half and let them go on a run. It opened the door, they took confidence from it, and down the final stretch, we let them hit too many big shots.”

Smith and Moore produced a combined total of 57 points.

Elsewhere, Worcester Wolves came from behind to win 90-88 in overtime at Cheshire Jets after coming from 13 points down during the third quarter.

However, when point guard Jeremy Bell isn’t at the peak of his game., the Jets are vulnerable and to their utmost credit, Worcester dug deep and took their opportunity.

The visitors started strongly and opened up a 12-5 lead during the early exchanges through a score by Justin Dobbins but seven unanswered points by the hosts squared things up after six minutes of action.

There was little between either side by the end of the first quarter and the home team shaded it 20-18. The second quarter started really positively for Jets as they posted a 9-0 run to open up the first double figure lead of the game at 29-18.

Things briefly got worse for Wolves when a Gareth Murray score made it 35-22 but they responded to cut the gap to 41-34 heading into the second half.

As Jets again opened up a 13 point lead, this time through Colin O’Reilly at 48-35 it didn’t deter Wolves who posted a superb 18-5 run to ensure they finished the third period on level terms at 53-53.

With Michael Creppy and Rod Middleton combining for 43 points, and with the home team knowing they would have to raise their game, it promised to be a thrilling finale and so it proved.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Jets coach Paul Smith. “They were just smarter than us down the stretch.”

Quemont Greer hit a game-high 28 for Cheshire who lose ground in the title race.

Saturday: Raiders undone by Shark attack

Sheffield Sharks kept up their belated pursuit of the established order by crushing 95-78 Plymouth Raiders in Devon.

Despite adding GB guard Germayne Forbes, Gavin Love’s men could not live with the BBL Cup winners.

Leicester Riders took advantage of Guildford Heat’s ongoing inconsistency, drubbing the Surrey side 95-64.

Essex Pirates have now equalled the league’s all-time run of futility of 35 games after they were thrashed 105-74 by Milton Keynes Lions.

While Worcester Wolves heaped more misery on troubled Worthing Thunder with a 98-59 win.

Friday: Chapman blow as Eagles run hits 13

Newcastle Eagles reeled off an 100-81 win over Cheshire Jets, a 13th consecutive victory which moved the champions two points clear in the British Basketball League.

Even with player-coach Fab Flournoy at home recovering from pneumonia,

Charles Smith led the Eagles with a haul of 36 points and 9 rebounds, while Trey Moore was close to another triple-double with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.

However, the hosts sustained a blow when Joe Chapman was stretchered off midway through the fourth quarter after an accident clash. The American, understood to have injured his Achilles, looks likely to miss Sunday’s trip to Glasgow.

There were five lead changes in the first five minutes before the Eagles pulled away to an 18-13 lead, on a Trey Moore score, that they would maintain through to the end of the game. Three points in a row from Bell out of a time out made it 18-16, but that run was snapped as Smith helped see the Eagles into a 23-20 first quarter lead.

Smith got the Eagles going in the second and they pushed the lead out to 33-24 but that sparked the Jets and scores from Murray and Greer tied the game at 35 after a 6-0 burst midway through the quarter. But Bridge got the Eagles going again with a three-pointer before Smith made it a 7-0 burst with consecutive scores, taking his personal total to 21 in the first twenty minutes. The Eagles maintained their lead through to half time at 48-40.

The Eagles came out of the locker room with a 6-0 burst, including two big plays from Kadiri Richard, to push the lead out to double-digits at 54-40. The lead was still 70-55 on a Chapman triple inside the last three minutes of the period and they led 75-62 heading into the fourth.

Charles Smith hit a three-pointer to open the decisive period and settle his team, and he hit a second soon after for his 31st point and a lead of almost twenty at 83-64. The lead went through the twenty point mark at 88-66 on another Smith triple. From there the Eagles cruised to victory, with Bridge’s basket sending them through the century with 30 seconds to play.

Elsewhere, Milton Keynes Lions won a thriller at home against Plymouth Raiders with Travis Nelson and Shawn Myers each converting decisive free throws in the final minute.

Nelson had a massive double-double of 33 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Lions, supported by 28 from Myers. Evaldas Zabas led the visitors with 30 of his own, but the Raiders have still only won twice on the road all season with a record of 2-11.

The visitors controlled much of the first half as, after trading early on, Raiders took the edge at 17-22 as Colbert Jr had 11 and Zabas had 7. Bolds was single-handedly keeping the Lions in it, as his three-point play followed by a three-pointer tied the game at 25 with two minutes to play. Bolds had 12 points in the first, but his team trailed 29-32.

A fast start to the second saw the Lions take the lead on consecutive Nelson scores, but it wouldn’t last long as the Raiders rattled off a rapid 8 points in 30 seconds to lead 39-49 midway through the stanza – Rowe scoring 4 points to move to 12 for the game and Zabas to 15 in what was a 17-6 spell. The Raiders maintained a cushion through to half time, but had to withstand a flurry from the Lions as Myers and Yorick Williams scored in the last two minutes to make it 57-51 to the visitors as Zabas scored on the buzzer.

However, the hosts came charging out of the blocks after the break with a Myers triple and a 12-0 burst, giving them a 63-59 lead after only two minutes. The Raiders recovered with consecutive scores from Polk and Gumbs to tie the game at 67, before a number of lead changes ensued up to the end of the third. The Lions had the edge going into the decisive quarter at 82-81.

The visitors took the lead back with a three-pointer from Zabas to open the fourth period – he scored his team’s first seven points in the quarter. But the game was tied once more at 88 after three minutes and from there the Lions maintained a slight edge. In the middle of the quarter the teams could only muster one basket in two and a half minutes, that coming from Kris Clark to see the hosts up 93-89, and they entered the last three minutes with a 95-89 advantage.

Gumbs made a valiant effort for his team down the stretch, but the hosts held on as Nelson scored to make it 97-93 heading into the final minute. Zabas made a pair of free-throws with 41 seconds remaining for a one possession game, but any hopes of a comeback were dashed when Chez Marks was called for a technical foul with 30 seconds to play and Nelson and Myers sent their team through the century mark from the free-throw line.

On Saturday night, basement side Essex Pirates could equal the league’s longest ever losing streak if they are defeated at home by Milton Keynes.

Leicester host Guildford, Plymouth face Sheffield while struggling duo Worcester and Worthing square off.

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