Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 95 (30,47,70) (Defoe 30, Smith 20, Martin 15) Sheffield Sharks 84 (15,39,67) (Holmes 19, Payne 19, Lewis 16)
In front of a jam packed 2,400 home support, Esh Group Eagles Newcastle put on a strong fourth quarter to beat Sheffield Sharks 95-84 in the North East, as last season’s top two in the BBL Championship met for the first time in the new campaign. The Eagles overcame foul trouble to bounce back from a rare home defeat on opening night; while the Sharks have now suffered consecutive away defeats and slip back to 2-2.
Darius Defoe led all scorers with 30 points for the Eagles, having also led the scoring when the teams met in April as Newcastle secured the head-to-head on their way to the league title. Defoe shot 15/17 on the night, meaning he is currently an amazing 28/34 (82%) for the season so far.
And it was Defoe who scored the opening eight points of the game for the hosts as they raced into a 19-8 lead; he had made all seven of his shots by the time they led 30-15 at the end of a dominant first quarter.
But the Eagles were pegged back by an 11-0 burst, ignited by Allen Payne for the visitors in the second stanza, getting them back to within one shot at 37-34. The Eagles pushed the lead back out and Charles Smith, who had 20 points and 7 assists for the night, hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to ensure they led 47-39 at the break.
But the hosts hit foul trouble in the third quarter as both Andy Thomson and Rahmon Fletcher had to sit down on four fouls, and the Sharks posted another 11 unanswered points to take a rare lead at 56-57.
That was short-lived as Newcastle were settled when Smith and Stuart Thomson hit consecutive three-pointers, and the latter opened the fourth quarter in the same fashion to set the tone for the latter stages. The Eagles went on a late 14-5 push, shrugging off Fletcher fouling out, to secure an impressive win.