Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 95 (29,47,70) (Defoe 20, Cooke 20, Gause/Martin 15)
London Lions 67 (20,40,55) (Marks 23, Ikhinmwin 8, Brown/Davis 7)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle made it five wins in a row to retain their place at the summit of the BBL Championship, comprehensively beating London Lions 95-67 after a dominant second half. Darius Defoe (pictured) powered them to their eleventh straight home league win, with 20 points and 11 rebounds, condemning the Lions – for whom only Chez Marks (23) made it into double-figures – to their fourth defeat in five.
The early exchanges provided few clues as to what would come, with the teams inseparable through four lead changes and five ties on their way to 12-12. But then the hint came as the Eagles broke that tie with a massive 15 unanswered points, keeping their visitors scoreless for five minutes as Charles Smith scored nine. Mike Martin responded with six in a row, and Marks’s three-pointer helped the Lions back to 33-31 in the second stanza on Rod Brown’s score, in what became a 19-6 riposte. But the Eagles settled themselves by going back to the inside, where they scored 34 of their first half points for a 47-40 lead, as Smith and Malik Cooke kept the scoreboard ticking over.
And they came out stronger to settle the game after the break. Defoe scored five in a row, and then capped an 8-2 run to make the score 60-47 with three minutes to play in the third; and his 12 third quarter points proved crucial as they took a 70-55 lead into the decisive period. Newcastle started the fourth with a 9-0 burst to settle the game, and went on to win the final quarter by 25-12, Paul Gause scoring consecutive triples late on to push the lead through 30 points.