Plymouth University Raiders 82 (18,44,64) (Hampton 20, George 16, Sayers 15)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 88 (16,38,64) (Smith 24, Jones 21, Fletcher 10)
A late salvo from Charles Smith restored Esh Group Eagles Newcastle as the outright leaders of the BBL Championship on Saturday night – having been joined at the summit after Worcester Wolves’ win on Friday – with an 82-88 victory on the road at Plymouth University Raiders.
Charles Smith scored two clutch three-pointers on his way to leading all scorers with 24 points, supported by 21 from Andre Jones and a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Andy Thomson.
The Eagles trailed for much of the first half and were down 44-38 at the break. But a 10-1 run early in the third period saw them snatch the lead at 47-48 on Rahmon Fletcher’s basket and, despite falling behind again, Fab Flournoy’s buzzer-beater set up a grandstand fourth quarter with the teams tied at 64.
An 8-0 burst midway through the decisive period seemed to put the Eagles in control at 70-79 with Smith scoring three of those points. But Pierre Hampton – who led the Raiders on the night with 20 points and 10 rebounds – wasn’t done, as he scored six points when the hosts mirrored that 8-0 run and got back to 80-81 with two minutes to play.
At that point, veteran Charles Smith came to the fore. He netted a dramatic three-pointer with a minute left to play, and then another just thirty seconds later after Hampton had missed one of his own, to seal the win for the visitors.
The Eagles have now won nine consecutive league games, and are unbeaten on the road all season. Raiders have lost three in a row, and five of their last six.