BBL Championship
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 64 (23, 38, 51)(Defoe 18, Fletcher 15, Chapman 8)
Leicester Riders 80 (18, 30, 49)(Wright 22, Sullivan 15, Washington 11)
It is advantage Leicester Riders in the BBL Championship title race after they produced a sensational fourth quarter to beat leaders Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 80-64 at Sport Central on Friday.
Riders still trail the reigning champions by eight points in the standings, but with five games in hand they can now overtake Eagles – and they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker, having won both league meetings between the teams.
After producing two thrillers in the BBL Cup and BBL Trophy Finals already this campaign, more of the same was expected on Tyneside and so it proved – but not how many would have expected.
Eagles, no doubt still hurt by Trophy defeat in their most recent face-off, started well as Darius Defoe connected on his first four shots from the floor.
Their lead reached double figures during the third period before Riders responded with a 9-0 run.
Eagles regained their composure to enter the final 10 minutes in front, but the momentum had shifted and, as he so often does, Drew Sullivan produced his best in the key moments to help Riders outscore their hosts 31-13 in the fourth quarter.
Defoe was the high man for Newcastle with 18 points while TrayVonn Wright led Leicester to their 15th straight away win with 22.
Riders face a tough task if they are to consolidate the advantage this victory gives them, however, as they play host to London Lions on Saturday.