Mersey Tigers 80 (21,38,59) (Sullivan 26, Jones 17, Aliu 16)

Newcastle Eagles 58 (19,30,43) (Smith 13, Defoe 11, Chapman 10)

The 2010/11 BBL Championship season tipped off on Merseyside as last season’s playoff champions – the Mersey Tigers – comprehensively beat last season’s league champions – the Newcastle Eagles – 80-58 to get their league campaign off to the ideal start.

Andrew Sullivan led the Tigers with a haul of 26 points and 7 rebounds against his former club, while James Jones had 17 points, 6 boards and 4 assists. Charles Smith led the Eagles with 13 points.

The first quarter provided few clues of what was to come as the teams could barely be separated in the early exchanges. Joe Chapman put the visitors up 6-9 with a three-pointer, before the lead then changed hands on four occasions. Two late scores from James Jones helped the Tigers to edge the opening stanza 21-19.

The Eagles snatched the lead back early in the second on Kadiri Richard’s score, to make it 23-25. But from there, the Tigers held their visitors scoreless for large parts of the period as they made the game’s decisive run. A James Jones steal and score on a coast-to-coast, followed by the same player feeding Drew Sullivan for an ‘and-one’ play, made the score 34-25. It became 38-25 as Sullivan scored his seventeenth point of the first half to cap a 14-0 surge. Charles Smith stemmed the flow and helped the Eagles to narrow the deficit to 38-30 at the halfway point.

However, a 9-4 start to the third restored the double-digit lead for the Tigers and it wouldn’t get any lower in the remainder of the game. The Eagles got to within 14 in the fourth quarter on Aaron Nielsen’s three-pointer, but Jones and David Aliu saw the game out for the Tigers as they ran away with it down the stretch, scoring the last 8 points.