BBL Championship
Newcastle Eagles 89 (Huffman 26, Defoe 21, Maddox 14)
Surrey Heat 80(T. Holmes 20, Cricelli 17, C. Holmes 14)

The Newcastle Eagles have given themselves a cushion in second place in the BBL Championship table after beating the third-placed Surrey Heat 89-80 in the northeast. The Eagles have won five of their last six games, while it was the Heat’s first loss on the road since October.

Damon Huffman led the Eagles with 26 points, including six three-pointers, while Darius Defoe had a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds; the Eagles were missing Charles Smith. Travis Holmes led the Heat with 20 points.

The Eagles established an early lead at 11-2 after the Heat scored the opening basket of the game and then not again for four minutes; Defoe scored six early points and Joe Chapman a three-pointer. The Heat narrowed the gap as Chavis and Frank Holmes combined for 6 points to make the score 13-10 but Defoe and Kareem Maddox were there on the inside to keep the Eagles ahead. After the Heat got it back to within three again, Huffman scored consecutive three-pointers inside the final 1.30 to help the Eagles to a 26-21 advantage after ten minutes.

After being pegged back when Julius Joseph’s basket made the score 28-25, the Eagles looked to push on in the second quarter. Joe Chapman’s three-pointer got them started and the lead went through double-figures after a 7-2 run made it 42-31 on Fab Flournoy’s basket and after Huffman added another three. But the Heat finished the half strongly, scoring the last 6 points in the final minute through Frank, Chavis and Travis Holmes to trail 45-39.

And the Heat carried that momentum into the third quarter, immediately narrowing the deficit to one point on Albert Margai’s three-pointer, and they repeatedly got close although never managed to nudge themselves in front. They did tie the game at 54 when Frank and Travis Holmes scored consecutive baskets, but the Eagles were settled by Huffman and Flournoy, and Huffman made two three-pointers inside the last two minutes to maintain their edge at 64-60 going into the fourth quarter.

The Eagles built on that foundation and saw the game out. An early 6-0 burst, sparked by Anthony Martin, gave them a double-digit cushion at 72-62 and that was maintained heading into the last five minutes as Martin scored twice more. The Heat did threaten again, using an 8-0 run to get within one possession at 76-73 with four minutes to play, and they still had a chance with 1.13 remaining at 82-79 after Margai scored again. But the Eagles held their nerve as, surprisingly, Defoe made his firsa three-pointer of the season and Martin scored 4/4 from the line down the stretch.