Newcastle Eagles thought they had one foot in the BBL Cup Final after a first half blitz but Leicester Riders came back from the dead to claim a 90-90 draw to leave the semi balanced heading into next week’s second leg.

In a classic game of two halves, Eagles were up by as many as 21 points until the home team launched their superb revival after returning from the locker rooms looking to salvage their Cup hopes which were looking decidedly dodgy at one point.

Defensively Newcastle were sensational during the first half and completely locked down the dangerous trio of Cameron Rundles, Ayron Hardy and most importantly, former favourite Drew Sullivan.

While Hardy grabbed the first score of the contest, it certainly wasn’t a sign of things to come as Fab Flournoy and his team subsequently stormed into an early double digit lead at 23-13 after a steal and lay-up by Paul Gause.

The visitors increased the lead to 28-15 by the end of the first quarter and Darius Defoe made a statement basket to double Newcastle’s lead at 42-21.

Not allowing Sullivan any looks at the basket, the Great Britain captain who is so often an immeasurable force of good for Riders was nullified to great effect by his former employers and went scoreless in the first half .

Despite this setback, the home team did rally slightly with the fantastic Bradd Wierzbicki helping to stem the tide with 18 first half-points as the home team looked to limit the damage at 58-40 by the midway point of the game.

It made a big difference because when Riders emerged from the locker rooms they were like a team possessed and roared on by the home fans, they began a remarkable salvage operation which was every bit as impressive as the Eagles first half display.

Having cut the gap to just ten points at 65-55 during the third quarter it was in the final quarter when Riders really began to turn the screw and the once dominant Eagles began to crumble in spectacular fashion as they ran out of steam.

Looking hungry and hurt from their first half hammering, Riders were scintillating as they sensed blood and the ability to even take a lead into the second leg. With Brett Royster and Ayron Hardy lending great support to Wierzbicki, the home team completed their fight back by moving 88-86 in front before the teams eventually finished deadlocked.

BBL: Plymouth recover as Newcastle stay top

Plymouth Raiders shrugged off their nightmare loss to Newcastle Eagles by bouncing back to record an important and hard fought win at Durham Wildcats to end their mini-tour of the north-east of England on a high.

Jeremy Bell was the main architect of the success with 31 points while a drought either side of the third quarter break cost Durham dearly having led by as many as ten points in the second half.

With both teams having suffered losses 24 hours earlier, neither raced out of the blocks with any great confidence and in a low key opening, Durham moved into an 8-4 lead as Mike Capocci made a score after a nice assist by Ralph Bucci.

After their disastrous first quarter against the Eagles in their previous game, losing valuable early ground wasn’t an option for Coach Love and his players who replied instantly with a 12-4 run.

But, rather than allow the momentum to slip away, Wildcats regained the upper hand by finishing the first quarter with a flourish as they scored 9 of the last 11 points to lead 21-18.


Things looked really bright for the hosts when they started the second period with a jump shot by Paul Elderkin and a triple by Fred Hinnenkamp to extend their lead to eight but their superiority was only temporary.

Led by Bell and James Jones, the visitors found another gear offensively and locked down Durham at the defensive end to storm back into the lead at 31-29 after a 13-3 scoring burst.

Ahead of half-time, both teams battled intensely to take control but neither could make a decisive break. Raiders still held a slender advantage at 39-37 but knew they had to make some outside shots when they returned to the floor after going 1 of 7 during the first half.

However it was Wildcats who showed the greatest improvement when they stepped back on the court as they made the visitors defence look decidedly lax by pouring in 18 quick fire points. That helped them to open up a precious double-figure lead with the impressive Capocci making it 55-45.

Not for the first time on their trip to the North-East, Raiders found themselves in a hole but this time they managed to dig themselves out of it with a blistering finish to the third quarter. They held Wildcats to just two more baskets during the last four minutes or so and poured in 18 quick-fire points of their own as their hosts’ defence crumbled.

Bell was still shining and Anthony Rowe also beginning to come alive which gave Raiders a 63-59 advantage heading into the last quarter. Having been ten points down, it wasn’t long before the Wildcats drought meant Coach Love and his team completed a 20 point turnaround to go ten points up.

It looked to have heralded the end of the game for Durham but known for their resilience and their never-say-die spirit, they recovered to set up a thrilling finale. They got to within 77-75 with 90 seconds remaining but it wasn’t to be as Raiders held on.

Friday night in the BBL Championship Newcastle continue to set the pace in the league with a 6-0 record after a 90-67 destruction of Plymouth Raiders at Sport Central. Darius Defoe led the Eagles with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Andrew Thomson had a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards. Lehmon Colbert led the Raiders with 19 on a night when league MVP Jeremy Bell shot just 23% from the field on his way to 11 points.

The damage was done from the very outset as the Eagles opened the game leading 10-4 after five minutes behind 6 points from Defoe. The Eagles scored 7 more points inside the final two minutes, sparked by Thomson’s three-pointer, to take a commanding 24-8 lead after the first period, and they never looked back.

The lead grew steadily in the second quarter, with Charles Smith’s three-pointer making it 35-16 and it reached 22 as a 7-2 burst, capped by a Joe Chapman three-pointer, made the score 42-40. The hosts maintained a margin above twenty through to the half, leading 49-28. And the deficit was rarely within 20 in the second half, peaking at the final score margin of 23.

Injury-hit Glasgow Rocks produced a stunning fourth quarter comeback to edge out Milton Keynes Lions 95-92 and stay in the thick of the British Basketball League title race. Mychal Green fired a game-high 29 points, including eight in a row during a dramatic surge, as the Kelvin Hall outfit came from 13 down to overwhelm the Lions.

With player-coach Sterling Davis joining EJ Harrison on the injured list to leave the Scots fielding only seven players, teenage guard Jonny Bunyan fired the Rocks into a 41-39 half-time lead.

However the hosts went on a 16-4 run in the third period to take control, going as much as 76-63 ahead with nine minutes left. Yet Green sparked his side back from the brink, eventually sealing victory from the foul line after Danny Huffor had put the visitors in front for good with 44 seconds to go.

It leaves Glasgow second in the table but Davis has ruled out bringing in any short-term cover, insisting he will keep faith in his existing squad for next weekend’s top of the table meeting with Newcastle Eagles.

“It’s going to be a test for us, no doubt,” said Davis, who will miss two weeks with an Achilles tear. “It’s just unfortunate when injuries occur but I’d rather just go with what we’ve got rather than bring someone in for the short-term and disrupt things.

“Newcastle’s not the ideal time to have anything less than your strongest team on the floor but some of our bench guys have already shown this season that they can step up.”

Sheffield used an amazing fourth quarter comeback, and Nate Reinking buzzer-beater, to inflict the first defeat of the season on the Worcester Wolves, beating them 76-75 at the English Institute of Sport. Succumbing to that late defeat means the Wolves lose pace with the Newcastle Eagles at the top of the table.

It was Reinking who led all scorers with 25 points, supported by 16 points from Justin Dobbins. Richie Gordon led the Wolves with 23 points.

The Wolves led for the majority of the first three quarters after the opening the game with a 7-12 lead in the first five minutes. That reached 27-36 midway through the second quarter and double-digits by the half time break at 32-42. Gordon had already scored 16 of his points with Kaslauskas on 10.

The Wolves were even more convincing in the third quarter, taking the lead out to with the lead peaking at 44-58, before finishing at 47-60 heading into the final period. But at that point it all changed. The Sharks came back with a 14 point fourth quarter swing, thanks in large part to a 9-0 burst midway through that saw them tie the game at 66.

A number of lead changes and ties ensued before the Sharks took the lead by one, at 74-73, with 45 seconds remaining. The Wolves got back in front with 7 seconds on the clock before Great Britain player Reinking netted the buzzer-beating winner, moving the Sharks up to sixth in the process.

Mersey Tigers saw off a late fight back from the Durham Wildcats to beat them 85-81 and draw level with them in the BBL Championship standings. David Aliu, with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Kris Douse, with 18 points, led the Tigers; while Paul Elderkin led all scorers with 24 points for the visiting Wildcats.

The Tigers led for much of the game, and seemed to have it sealed as they took a 65-54 lead into the fourth quarter after a 14-4 run. But the Wildcats had a fast start to the fourth period with a 10-2 burst, behind 6 points from Flaherty, and soon took the lead themselves at 70-71. A number of lead changes ensued but they still led 78-79 inside the final minute. But the Tigers scored the next 5 points, Otten’s basket with 38 seconds remaining putting them up for good before Aliu and James Griffiths saw the game out from the free-throw line.


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