Newcastle Eagles overturned a nine point deficit to claim their second title of the season. A 96-80 victory, over the Plymouth Raiders at Sport Central, was enough for an overall 184-177 success which sealed their fifth BBL Trophy title.
The second quarter proved decisive as the home side racked up an impressive 37 points to take control before holding off Plymouth’s response. Jeremy Bell produced a game high 29 points but it was the collective scoring of the Eagles that got the job done with five scorers in double digits, led by 19 from Paul Gause.
The opening quarter was a tight affair where Andrew Thomson netted two triples and Bell had eight points including two from the line late on to tie the match at 18 after the opening ten minutes. The game was still evenly poised at the start of the second then Jamal Williams found the net from beyond the arc to put Plymouth up by three, 25-28.
Newcastle sprung into action with a dominant close to the half started with a 14-2 burst, capped by a Charles Smith three. Joe Chapman followed suit with two of his own to give the Eagles a commanding 55-41 half time lead; which also put them five ahead on aggregate.
Newcastle pushed the lead up to 16 on the night with five successive points with 6.31 left in the third. However, with the game slowly slipping away from them, Gavin Love’s side hit back with a 16-2 response to regain the overall lead of the tie. The run contained five points from James Jones including a score from beyond the arc; an area where the visitors struggled on the night, connecting with just three of 23 attempts. Having seen a healthy lead reduced to just two points, Newcastle finished the third with an 8-2 run to take a 71-63 lead into the final quarter although it was Plymouth who had a slender one point advantage overall.
Early triples in the fourth from Smith and Chapman put the home side ahead on aggregate and they never looked back. The lead had crept back up to 16 but six points from Bell made it 90-79 with 1:24 on the clock, meaning the Raiders trailed by two.That was as close as they were to get; missing their next seven field goal attempts as Newcastle sealed the win from the free throw line.
With Fab Flournoy’s men securing their second title of the season and leading the race for the Championship, a repeat of the 2005-06 ‘Clean Sweep’ is definitely on the cards.
As for Plymouth, two cup finals, the possibility of second place in the league, does another showdown with the Eagles in the Play-off final await?
In the only BBL Championship game of the night, Mersey Tigers picked up a valuable 85-74 road win at the Sheffield Sharks to keep their slim play-off hopes alive. Despite trailing by 37-33 at half-time, Mersey outscored their opponents 27-14 in the pivotal third quarter to take a nine point lead into the final quarter. At one stage, the Tigers had lead by as many as eighteen points before Sheffield reduced the final arrears to 11. Sam Cricelli top scored for the visitors with 25 points while Myles Hesson contributed 22 to give Mersey the series victory over Sheffield. With the possibility of another two points on the road against bottom-placed, Durham, Mersey will have to rely on rival teams losing because they have played more games at this stage.