HEAT SURGE LEAVES EAGLES ONE WIN FROM TITLE


Guildford Heat produced a remarkable comeback to all but end Plymouth Raiders’ BBL Championship aspirations with an 86-81 victory.

It was a result surely celebrated on Tyneside. Newcastle can now clinch the title with victory at home to outgoing champions Mersey next Friday – or even on Wednesday if Plymouth fail to beat Leicester.

Guildford’s priority was to edge closer to sealing a play-off berth to join a list of teams which now also includes Sheffield Sharks in the post-season, leaving just two spots left undecided.

One more win for the Heat could be enough.

Trailing by 18 points at the start of the third quarter, they worked their way back into the match before taking the lead for good at 80-79 on Tayo Ogedengbe’s free throw with just two minutes to play.

Ogedengbe ended the match with 23 points but it was former Raider Drew Lasker who was the biggest threat to his old club as he ended with a game-high 24 points.

The teams could barely be separated in the first quarter. Raiders opened with a 4-0 run, but Heat gradually chipped away and went up by four themselves at 15-11 on a Drew Lasker dunk. Raiders tied the match at 19-19 before Anthony Martin beat the buzzer to put the visitors 21-19 up at the first break.

Plymouth seized control in the second quarter as they limited their hosts to just 11 points. An 8-0 start to the period gave Gavin Love’s team a 29-19 lead and they stretched that out to 35-20 on an Anthony Rowe two. By half time the advantage was still 15 with Raiders well on top at 45-30.

The Heat mounted a furious fightback after the interval. James Jones had pushed Raiders’ lead to 18 as his three-pointer opened up the third quarter.

But from then on it was all Guildford. Trailing 52-36 the home team put together a 21-5 run to tie the match at 57-57 on a Lasker two. Frank Holmes made a pair from the line for Heat to pull level at 59-59 before Jeremy Bell scored the final points of the period for Raiders to give them a 61-59 margin heading into the final stanza.

Martelle McLemore gave Heat their first lead since 19-17 when he scored to make it 63-61. But it seemed as though the Raiders had rediscovered their composure when a 16-9 run handed them a 77-72 advantage. But their nerve – and their hopes – faded away.

Rowe led Plymouth with 19 points.

Elsewhere, Leicester Riders pulled away in the fourth quarter to keep the pressure on for a top two finish with an 83-70 victory at Mersey Tigers.

Leading by just two entering the final period, the Riders were tied at 60-60 with the battling Tigers with seven minutes 12 seconds on the clock when a Cameron Rundles three began a decisive 14-2 burst.

Saturday: Wolves up

Worcester Wolves halted a run of consecutive defeats as they overcame the Guildford Heat 85-77, moving back up to second place in the BBL Championship. It is the sixth time the Wolves have beaten the Heat this season, having knocked them out of both cup competitions.

Richie Gordon led all scorers with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while Sherrad Prezzie-Blue added 21 points as the Wolves eclipsed the Heat in the third quarter to win the game.

The sting was taken out of the game early in the fourth as only one point was scored in the first two and a half minutes. The Wolves took a double-digit lead on Prezzie-Blue’s free-throw and the lead reached 78-63 midway through on Tommy Freeman’s three-pointer. And that’s where the lead peaked as the teams traded baskets until late in the game, the Heat making a late run to get as close as 81-75 after an 8-2 push, but it wasn’t enough.

Tayo Ogedengbe led the Heat with 21.

Friday: Thomson tips balance in Eagles favour

Newcastle Eagles took a big step towards the BBL Championship title after a last-second Andrew Thomson tip-in secured an 85-84 win over the Worcester Wolves.

It leaves Plymouth (20-5) as the only mathematical challengers left for Fab Flournoy’s men (23-3) with Worcester (20-7) dropping down to third in the table and are effectively out of the title race as the Eagles take the head-to-head between the teams.

Despite Thomson taking the headlines, Charles Smith led the Eagles with 25 points and 9 rebounds, while Joe Chapman had 16 and Paul Gause scored 15 in just 13 minutes.

The Eagles had used an early 15-2 surge to lead 22-11 after ten minutes, but were pegged back to 38 each at the half as the Wolves had a 14-5 run and tied the game on Arnas Kazlauskas’s three-pointer with the final possession.

Newcastle led by one going into the fourth, and the decisive quarter started with five lead changes, before the Eagles seemed to take charge as Richie Gordon fouled out for the visitors.

They edged into a lead that they held for the next few minutes, and seemed to be almost over the line when Smith’s three-pointer with 1.23 remaining made the score 81-76. But there was a last ditch salvo from Kazlauskas as he scored 5 quick points, with a three-pointer tying the game, before fouling out himself.

The game came down to the final 26 seconds, as Smith made two free-throws before Prezzie-Blue drove into the lane to score and draw a foul on Darius Defoe, adding the free-throw to see the Wolves leading 83-84 with 12 seconds to play. With the final possession, Thomson missed with three seconds left before a scramble ensued: Smith missed a tip in before Thomson got something on the rebound, watching it drop tantalising through the hoop to send the hosts into raptures.

Gordon’s double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds led the Wolves.

Elsewhere, Plymouth have won nine straight league games after using a second half comeback to defeat MK Lions 100-93.

Point guard Jeremy Bell led the Raiders once more, with 28 points and 5 assists, while Michael Ojo added 23 points.

After an amazing start for the Lions that saw them lead by 20 points at 55-35 after a flurry of three-pointers in the second quarter, the game looked to be heading only one way. But the Raiders stormed back just before the half to give an indication of what would follow. They finished with a 13-1 run over the last four minutes, allowing their hosts just a solitary free-throw, while Bell scored 6 and they went into the locker rooms buoyed as the deficit became just 56-48.

They then added the first 4 points of the second half, but didn’t take the lead until the fourth quarter. The Lions were called for two technical fouls as their visitors narrowed the gap to 76-72 to set up an exciting finale.

The Raiders completed their comeback with a 7-0 surge to open the fourth, Lehmon Colbert’s three-pointer sparked a 16-6 run over the first five minutes of the period and there was no way back for the Lions. They had it at a one possession game in the final minute as another Adrien Sturt three-pointer made the score 96-93, but Bell made 4/4 from the line as Stefan Gill, Nuno Pedroso and Sturt all missed late three-pointers.

Finally, Sheffield have bounced back from three straight defeats to beat Durham Wildcats 79-73 at the English Institute of Sport.

After the Wildcats led for much of the first half, the Sharks snatched a halftime lead at 38-36 on Jimmy Langhurst’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. They used a 17-5 push to effectively settle the game in the third quarter, and kept their visitors at arm’s length for the remainder after establishing a double-digit lead at 63-53.

Forwards Mike Tuck, with 24 points, and Olu Babalola, led the Sharks charge.

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