Newcastle Eagles 112 (25,48,82) (Bridge 29, Defoe 26, Moore 25)
BiG Storage Cheshire Jets 92 (33,57,72) (Perre 22, Marks 21, Myers 19)
The Newcastle Eagles, last season’s losing BBL Cup finalists, progressed through to the semi-finals of this year’s competition after a 112-92 defeat of the BiG Storage Cheshire Jets at the MetroRadio Arena. It is the fourth consecutive season that they have reached at least this stage of the competition, having won it in 2006.
Encouragingly for the Eagles, and if they are seeking omens, they defeated the Jets on their way to lifting the BBL Cup in 2005/06 and they also beat them at this stage on the way to the National Indoor Arena last season; furthermore, in each of the last four seasons the team that has beaten the Jets in the Cup has made it to the showpiece game.
Their British stalwarts led the scoring as Andrew Bridge hit a season-high 29 points and Darius Defoe also achieved that personal landmark with 26. New signing Philip Perre led the Jets with 22.
The Eagles had the better of the early exchanges and led 6-4, before Phil Perre sparked a 7-0 burst for the Jets and sent them into a 6-11 lead. Perre scored 8 early points, but the Eagles managed to pull back to within one at 18-19 with big-man Darius Defoe carrying the load. However, back-to-back three- pointers from Chez Marks ignited the Jets once more, before former Eagle Shawn Myers also connected from down-town and the Jets led by double-digits at 20-30. Andrew Bridge hit a three-pointer that got it back within single figures before the first quarter break at 25-33.
The teams traded baskets in the second stanza and the Jets maintained their advantage until Bridge, with 6 points, inspired a 12-2 surge, that also included a further 4 points for Defoe, and brought the Eagles to within one at 44-45. The resilient Jets hit 12 points in the last two minutes, with 5 each for Marks and Perre, to take a 48-57 lead into the break. The Eagles required a last-second triple from Trey Moore, who was the BBL Player of the Season whilst playing for the Jets in 2004/05, to keep it that close at the half.
The Eagles carried that morsal of momentum into the third period as they rattled off the first 8 points and a pair of big dunks from Defoe and a Bridge triple contributed to a 14-3 run and an amazing 62-60 lead. The pendulum was in full swing for the next few minutes as a 5-0 spurt gave the Jets the lead back, before the Eagles posted a 9-2 run and led 73-67. However, Stephen Gayle came from the bench to make 5 consecutive points to make it a one-point game once more. There was another swing as the Eagles scored the last 9 points of the quarter, inlcuding 4 for Bridge and 3 for Defoe, whilst they also held the Jets scoreless in the last 2:22 for an 82-72 edge going into the final stanza.
When the Eagles opened the fourth with an 11-4 run they had one foot in the semi-finals. The Jets ultimately failed to get back into the game, but they hadn’t given up as an 8-1 run narrowed the deficit to 98-87 with three minutes to play. However, a strong finish from the Eagles saw them score 14 of the last 19 points as they beat the Jets by 20 or more points for only the second time in seventeen years of BBL competition between the sides. The Eagles have now won nine of the last ten games between the old rivals, but their overall head-to-head remains amazingly tight at 41-38 in favour of tonight’s victors.