JETS, ROCKS HOLD UPPER HAND

Cheshire Jets and Glasgow Rocks have taken pole position after Friday’s first legs of the BBL play-off semi-finals.

But there is still plenty of work to do for both teams on Sunday to confirm their places at next Saturday’s end of season showpiece in Birmingham.

Presumed favourites Newcastle were caught cold by Cheshire at Sports Central, falling as much as 28 behind in the second quarter to silence the home crowd. It took an extraordinary rally from the Eagles to recover to lose 99-89.

Bill Cole hit 13 of his 28 points in a frenetic early spell that pushed John Lavery’s side 32-13 ahead as the league champions were ripped apart, giving up 13 straight points in a barren four-minute spell.

And the Jets’ barrage continued, Adam Brown, Colin O’Reilly, Cole and Kai Williams each hitting three-pointers in succession as the visitors opened up a 50-25 lead with 5:18 left in the second.

Struggling from close and long range, Fab Flournoy’s men were forced to scrap for their lives as their bid for a clean sweep this season wobbled before their eyes.

It got worse. Down as much as 28, Newcastle recovered – barely – to trail 60-37 at half-time as the Jets’ defences held firm, the Eagles unable to convert a single one of their seven attempts from outside the arc.

Finally, the hosts found their range. Within 90 seconds, Paul Gause, Charles Smith and Andy Thomson all hit threes and the deficit was a manageable 66-55. Moments later, only 8 points separated the teams as Flournoy’s side dug deep.

They trailed 85-70 as the fourth period began. A 14-4 burst brought the Cup and Trophy winners within touching distance. Smith was relentless. Newcastle came closer still, down 92-89 when the veteran American converted yet another trey with 3:55 to go.

Cheshire, in shock, just held on. But Newcastle, having come this far, will not give up.

Elsewhere, Glasgow Rocks will take a slender advantage into the return leg of their BBL play-off semi-final with Leicester Riders after a thrilling 77-76 victory.

It wasn’t the emphatic send-off Sterling Davis’ men wanted in their last-ever game at the Kelvin Hall.

But the American coach admitted keeping the Rocks’ hopes alive took top priority as they bid to reach next weekend’s final in Birmingham.

He said: “Ideally, we’d have liked a bigger margin to take down to Loughborough but it was a great defensive performance from both teams. But we know if we win both games this weekend, we’re in the final. That’s one down. And there’s one to go.”

Glasgow, led by 25 points from EJ Harrison, were 39-34 ahead at half-time and extended their advantage to 11 midway through the third quarter.

But Cameron Rundles sparkled an 8-0 run that took Leicester ahead late in the fourth and it needed a late Rocks rally to ensure they drew first blood.

 

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