Newcastle Eagles did it the hard way as they reached the BBL Cup final on Friday evening, and they look likely to be joined at the NIA by Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders.
Eagles let a 17 point lead from the first leg slip against UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders before eventually winning 190-181 on aggregate, while Riders won 90-70 at One Health Sharks Sheffield to put one foot in the final.
Raiders won 91-83 in the north east, having sent the game into overtime with a 89-72 lead at the end of regulation time. The Eagles showed their credentials in the overtime period and, when their backs were against the wall, dug out a dominant spell to win 11-2 in overtime, their defence ultimately winning the game for them. Newcastle were led 19 from Charles Smith and 18 from Damon Huffman while Kareem Maddox had a massive double-double of 14 points and 21 rebounds. Matt Schneck beat that for the visitors, with 28 points and 16 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Riders took a massive step towards the BBL Cup final with a dominant performance at the EIS. Jay Couisnard was the inspiration with 21 points and eight rebounds, supported by 14 each for Anthony Rowe and Zaire Taylor.
In the BBL Championship, the Cheshire Phoenix dominated from start to finish to win a North West derby 92-65 at Mersey Tigers, completing a 3-0 season sweep over their rivals. Alif Bland and Jerome Gumbs each scored 22 points for the winners.
Glasgow Rocks have made it five BBL Championship wins in a row after using a crucial third quarter spell to beat the Manchester Giants 83-77 on the road. Donald Robinson dominated the game with 25 points, supported by 11 each from Sterling Davis, EJ Harrison and Gareth Murray. Devan Bailey shot 4/4 three-pointers to lead the Giants with 21 points.
Giants’ poor run continued the following night as they went down 83-71 at Surrey Heat. The home side had led by as many as 15 in the second quarter but Giants battled back to take the lead midway through the third quarter. Led by excellent displays from Chavis Holmes and Sam Cricelli the Heat re-found their form to keep the pressure on the top two in the BBL Championship.
BBL Championship leaders Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders maintained their title push on Sunday as they stepped up their defence in the final period to defeat the Rocks 85-73 at the Emirates Arena.
The Riders held the Rocks to just six points during the last ten minutes to allow them to safely navigate one of their trickiest games of the season, with Great Britain forward Drew Sullivan playing his part with 11 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Rowe also continues to shine since his move from Plymouth and added 25 points, whilst Donald Robinson was the top scorer in the game but his 26 points for the hosts wasn’t enough for the losing team.
Defending champions Newcastle Eagles bounced back after that loss against Raiders as Kareem Maddox and Darius Defoe starred in a 96-73 road win at Cheshire Phoenix.
The pair both claimed double-doubles, sharing 42 points and 22 rebounds as the Eagles ensured that just like Riders, they still only have one league loss to their name so far.
Raiders overcame a slow start at the Pavilions and posted a scorching final quarter to sweep aside Worcester Wolves 87-65, as not for the first time lately, the visitors imploded in the final quarter of a game. They were outscored 31-10 in the last ten minutes to crash to a seventh league loss of the season as Michael Ojo and Javarris Barnett combined for 47 points to keep Raiders well placed in the title race.
At the other end of the standings, Sharks completed a win double over Durham Wildcats to record their third BBL Championship victory of the season. Having already beaten Wildcats earlier in the campaign, they claimed an 88-73 win at Newton Aycliffe.
Mike Tuck wreaked havoc inside with 27 points, and he was well supported by new signing BJ Holmes who had 16 points and five assists