Cheshire Jets 74 (20,42,58) (Cole 24, Page 19, Brown 17)
Newcastle Eagles 78 (14,35,57) (Chapman 18, Smith 18, Defoe 15)
Newcastle Eagles completed their best ever start to a BBL league season to regain outright control at the summit of the BBL Championship table after fighting back from a 15 point deficit at Cheshire Jets.
This precious and hard fought 78-74 road win was their fifth straight success in the league and preserves their perfect record.
Boosted by the return of playmaker Paul Gause, the Eagles shrugged off a slow start and helped by an unfortunate injury to home favourite Matt Schneck during the second quarter, they clawed their way back into the game before prevailing in crunch time.
Both Charles Smith and Darius Defoe claimed double-doubles for the Eagles with the former scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds while the latter had 15 points and 14 boards.
Both teams started the game looking out of synch offensively and baskets were a rarity in a low-key opening which saw the game tied at 7-7 approaching the midway point of the opening period.
Jets were looking the more likely team to open up some daylight due to their ability to get easy scores inside and so it proved as they finished the quarter with a flourish by posting an 11-5 run to lead 20-14 heading into the second quarter.
Eagles were struggling at both ends of the floor, missing defensive assignments and not getting great looks on offence. Consequently with Matt Schneck proving a handful under the basket and the lively Keith Page pulling the strings to good effect, the visitors soon found themselves trailing by double digits at 30-18 as Jets continued their good work.
In the blink of an eye, the Eagles suddenly found their shooting range and nine unanswered points courtesy of three scores from downtown in a row suddenly made it a one shot game.
But, defensively the away team weren’t able to pick things up and Jets posted a nice 12-0 run of their own to re-establish control with a commanding 15 point lead shortly ahead of the interval.
Just when it looked like the game might be slipping away from Fab Flournoy and his team, their luck changed when Schneck was forced off due to what looked like an ankle injury and Eagles rallied with what proved to be a crucial run in the context of the game either side of the half-time break.
They not only rattled off the last eight points of the first half, but when they returned from the locker rooms, they scored the first eight points of the second half to complete the comeback and take the lead at 43-42 thanks to a Charles Smith three-pointer.
It changed the complexion of the game and right up until the closing minutes of the contest, neither team was able to make a decisive break and the game still hung in the balance in a nerve wracking finale.
But, with Jets in a little bit of foul trouble and missing the influential Schneck, Eagles managed to hold the hosts to just five points during the last three minutes to wrap up victory and pen the best start to a league campaign in their history.