Birmingham Knights 71 (17,32,49) (Benson 19, Hopkins 14, Lockett 13)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 87 (19,32,56) (Cooke 24, Martin 23, Gause 17)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle will try to put their sub-par performance in an 87-71 victory against Birmingham Knights before Sunday’s clash with Surrey United for the BBL Championship title.
An unusually shaky start by the Eagles and an inspired performance by the Knights, who are still chasing their first win, saw the teams at the opposite ends of the league table go toe-to-toe for the first three quarters.
Baskets by Brent Benson and Emile Hopkins gave Knights a 32-28 lead with a couple of minutes remaining in the first half, but Eagles tied it all up at 32-all just before the interval.
Newcastle started the second half with three quick baskets to pull away by seven points, but, cheered on by an electric crowd, the hosts erased the gap with a 9-2 stretch of their own. The score was still tied at 49-49 with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, but Eagles finished the period with a 7-0 stretch to carry a seven-point advantage into the final frame.
The run continued in the fourth quarter and Newcastle finally managed to put some distance between the sides, with the lead growing to 59-49. Having pulled away by double digits, Eagles dominated the rest of the way.
Malik Cooke led all scorers with 24 points, also adding six rebounds and four assists, Scott Martin had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Paul Gause chipped in with 17 points and five dimes off the bench for Newcastle.
Meanwhile, Brent Benson finished the game with a team-high 19 points and eight assists for Knights, Emile Hopkins scored 14 points and grabbed nine boards, while Joshua Lockett had 13 points and seven rebounds.