Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 111 (23,56,81) (Defoe 21, Cooke/Gause/Martin 20)
Birmingham Knights 75 (17,38,56) (Hopkins 20, Martyn Gayle 18, Michael Gayle 8)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle have made it three straight league wins and went through the century for the seventh time this season in beating Birmingham Knights 111-75. The win sees the Eagles jump to joint-second in the BBL Championship table.
Darius Defoe (pictured) led the way for the Eagles as he dominated the paint to record a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Charles Smith added 13 points and 12 assists, shooting 3/5 from beyond the arc. The Eagles were again without Fab Flournoy and Drew Lasker, both injured, while the Knights were missing the league’s leading scorer, Brent Benson. Emile Hopkins had a career night for the Knights, with 20 points, but it was the ninth team this season that one hundred points had been put on his team, demonstrating that their problems remain defensive.
The early exchanges provided few clues as to what would come, as the Knights stuck with the Eagles through a low-scoring opening to the game, and led when they lit things up from beyond the arc as Josh Rolls-Tyson and Martyn Gayle, with his second triple of the quarter, gave them a 13-15 lead. Defoe’s ‘and-one’ play put an end to that, and began to set the tone for the evening as the Eagles went on to lead 23-17 after ten minutes.
And that momentum carried as the hosts produced the key run in the second stanza. Midway through they rattled off 14 straight points, with five for Charles Smith and another four for Darius Defoe, to make the score 44-26, a double-digit lead that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. The Eagles were showing their intensity, as they maintained the margin to half time at 56-38, with 10 steals helping them to 18 points from turnovers in the first half, and 13 second chance points from offensive boards.
The game was settled after the break as the lead reached 30, at 77-47, on consecutive baskets from Malik Cooke, to finish an 11-0 burst that included another Smith triple. But the Knights didn’t let the margin grow much further – despite the Eagles going through the century with three minutes to play, on Defoe’s dunk – as the lead peaked at the final score.