Newcastle Eagles capitalised on the Worcester Wolves defeat to the One Health Sharks Sheffield to open up a four point lead at the top of the BBL Championship table thanks to a somewhat comfortable 94-77 victory over the Mersey Tigers at Sport Central on Friday night.
The Eagles exploded out of the blocks as they started the contest with a 14-4 run including 10 points from Paul Gause as the home side stamped their authority on the game. They maintained their strong start throughout the remainder of the opening period and coupled with some tight defense at the other end of the floor, they outscored the Tigers 25-7 in the first period.
In the second quarter a basket from Darius Defoe took the Eagles lead out to 21 points at 36-15 with five minutes remaining in the half, but a big three-pointer from David Aliu sparked the Tigers into life as they picked up their intensity at both ends of the floor and enjoyed a 22-2 tear to close out the first half trailing by just a single point at 38-37 heading into the locker rooms at the half.
In the second half David Aliu gave the Tigers the lead right at the start of the third quarter, but a 10-2 response from the Eagles gave them the lead right back at 48-41. Both sides traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter but it was the visitors who finished the period the stronger as they netted five of the last eight points to head into the final stanza trailing by just six points at 67-61.
In the final quarter a 9-4 start to the period from the home side took the score out to 76-65. The Tigers tried valiantly to get themselves back into the contest, but could get no closer than 10 points at 85-75 and the Eagles sealed the victory with a 9-2 run to close out the game.
Charles Smith enjoyed a double-double night for the Eagles as he led the team in both points and rebounds with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Aliu led the Tigers with 22 points personal.