BBL Cup, Semi-Final First Leg
One Health Sharks Sheffield 82 (Horstmann 18, Simmons 18, Lewis 10)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 79 (Smith 24, Defoe 18, Cooke 16)

This BBL Cup semi-final remains finely poised after the first leg as One Health Sharks Sheffield edged Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 82-79, to retain their unbeaten home record so far this season. These two clubs have great pedigree in the Cup: no team has won it more times than the Sharks, on six occasions including twice in the last four years; and the Eagles have been in the last two finals, winning it in 2012.

The close score line masks the nature of this game, as the teams traded runs throughout and each sought to establish a dominant lead. From the outset, the Eagles opened with a 10-2 run, behind five points from Darius Defoe and a three-pointer from Scott Martin. The hosts responded with a 13-2 burst of their own, with consecutive triples from Jeremie Simmons and Nick Lewis, to end the period with a one shot advantage at 22-20 on Mike Tuck’s buzzer-beater.

The pattern was repeated in the second stanza: the Sharks looked like they might get away as a 7-2 tear took them to 37-27, with Simmons scoring another five in a row. But the Eagles remained resolute, and a 10-2 run highlighted by a Charles Smith triple kept it a one-shot game at 39-37 at the half. Smith led all scorers on the night with 24 points.

The hosts again tried to make something stick in the third period, scoring the first five points and the last five points, finishing with another Lewis triple, to lead 61-53 heading into the final ten minutes. But, despite Simmons giving the Sharks a double-digit lead at 76-66 with under four minutes to play, Malik Cooke scored nine late points for the Eagles and Paul Gause netted a pair of free-throws with one second to play to keep them within one shot for the second leg.