BBL Championship
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 101 (22,40,63) (Defoe 27, Fletcher 18, Jones 18)
Bristol Flyers 74 (13,32,53) (Perine 22, Bland 17, Lautier-Ogunleye 12)

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle prepared for Sunday’s BBL Trophy Final with a 101-74 victory over Bristol Flyers, completing a season sweep of their opponents and making it ten straight league wins, remaining unbeaten at home since the opening night (six months and 16 games).

Darius Defoe powered the hosts to the win, with his highest points tally since October on a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds. And it was he who got the Eagles off to a good start, making four early points for a 12-6 lead, before they finished the first quarter with eight unanswered points to lead 22-13 with Defoe already on 10 points and five boards.

But the Eagles didn’t score for the opening four minutes of the second stanza and, although the Flyers couldn’t capitalise as they only made two scores themselves, it was indicative of how this game would pan out as Newcastle didn’t manage to shake off their visitors until the latter stages.

Alif Bland and Byrquis Perine opened the scoring after half time to narrow the gap to 40-36 and Bristol were still in it at 54-59 heading towards the last two minutes of the third quarter. But Scott Martin’s ‘and-one’ play gave the Eagles momentum that they would carry into a massive fourth quarter, in which they scored 38 points.

It was a 12-2 run that settled the game as Rahmon Fletcher and Andy Thomson hit six points each to make the score 75-58. They then finished the game with a 15-2 surge to go through the century mark for the eighth time this season, Defoe adding seven more points and Andre Jones finishing off the scoring with six seconds to play.

It was a combination of that offence and stern defence that proved key for the Eagles: the 24 turnovers that they forced yielded 29 points, leaving Flyers teetering as they hold onto the final Playoff berth after a third straight defeat.