Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders 80 (Couisnard 18, Losonsky 17, Rowe 15)
Newcastle Eagles 69 (Huffman 18, Maddox 16, Defoe/Smith 12)
Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders took a big step towards their first BBL Championship regular season title thanks to a 80-69 victory over second-placed Newcastle Eagles at the John Sanford Centre on Wednesday evening.
The victory also sees the Riders take the all-important season series over the Eagles, which could prove important should both teams finish level in three weeks time.
On the night, it was the Eagles who started the game the stronger side as they moved out to an early 5-14 advantage midway through the opening quarter. The Riders stormed their way back into the contest as an Andrew Sullivan basket ended a 12-3 finish to the period to see both teams locked together at 17-17 at the end of the first stanza.
In the second quarter, a 9-0 Riders tear took them out to a 28-22 lead midway through the period, but the Eagles scored six of the next eight points to keep themselves right in the contest at 30-28. That was as close as the visitors would get however for the remainder of the half as the home side finished much the stronger side, and a 10-4 finish sent the Riders into the locker room leading 42-32 at the half.
In the second half, an 11-1 run for the visitors early in the third quarter saw the Eagles get right back into the contest and reduce the defict back to two points at 45-43. A Kareem Maddox basket with 2:41 remaining in the quarter gave the visitors a 50-51 lead, but that was the last time that the Eagles would have in the contest as the Riders ended the period with six of the last nine points to lead 56-54 heading into the final stanza.
In the final period, a Charles Smith basket tied the game at 56-56, but the Riders broke the game open as a Jay Couisnard basket sparked a 13-2 burst for the home side to take the score out to 69-58 with less than three minutes remaining in the contest.
The Eagles tried desperately to get themselves back into the game down the stretch, but were unable to do so with any significance as the Riders picked up the all-important victory and increase their lead over the Eagles at the top of the table to eight points.
Couisnard (pictured) led the Riders in scoring with 18 points for the home side, while Damon Huffman led the scoring for the Eagles with 18 points as well.