Newcastle Eagles overturned a ten point first leg deficit with a 79-64 win away to Cheshire Jets to reach the Play-Off final- where the Leicester Riders await.
Fab Flournoy’s men produced a strong finish to keep their hopes of a ‘clean sweep’ alive with a 168-163 success on aggregate.
Charles Smith paced the Eagles on the night with 26 points while the regular season MVP, Joe Chapman added 13 points (including a trio of triples in the fourth) while Bill Cole had 18 points for the Jets.
The Eagles made a great start, taking an early 16-3 lead with an 14-0 burst, momentarily wiping out the first leg deficit to lead on aggregate. Adam Brown netted from long range as Cheshire stopped the rot and regained the advantage at the end of the first, despite trailing 12-20.
Bill Cole’s three pointer early on in the second set the tone as Cheshire enjoyed a strong ten minutes prior to half-time. A Smith triple had restored the eight point advantage for Newcastle before the home side took the lead on the night for the first time with a run of 11 straight points.
Paul Gause responded immediately with a three pointer but the teams were soon level approaching half-time. Four points from Kai Williams and a late basket from Matt Schneck gave the home side a 40-36 lead at the break- up 139-125 overall.
Cheshire’s lead peaked at five points only for Smith to add five of his own in a 7-0 burst as the Eagles regained their lead on the night. The game was tied at 52 with Colin O’Reilly, Williams and Cole all missing three point attempts as Newcastle capitalised with the final four points to take a four point lead into the final quarter.
A slow start ensued before Brown broke Cheshire’s deadlock with almost two minutes amassed in the fourth to extend their overall lead to seven as they trailed by three. Up stepped the recently crowned MVP in a pivotal moment as Chapman knocked down three consecutive triples to swing the game back in favour of Newcastle- now leading 66-54 and by two on aggregate.
The lead on the night peaked at 16 points on two free throws from Andrew Bridge with just two minutes in the game remaining. Brown set up a tense finish with four points to leave the Jets trailing by two overall with less 42 seconds on the clock. Newcastle held their nerve and closed the game out from the free throw line with Andrew Thomson, Flournoy and Chapman combining for five out of six attempts to seal the victory.
Newcastle will now take on Leicester in next week’s Play-Off final in a clash of the top two seeds as they bid for a fourth title of the season.