BBL Cup, Semi-Final Second Leg
Newcastle Eagles 83 (Huffman 15, Smith 15, Chapman 13)
UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders 91 (Schneck 28, O’Reilly 24, Bell 14)
(Eagles win 190-181 on aggregate)

The Newcastle Eagles, defending BBL Cup winners, have made it through to the final once more after a pulsating overtime victory in their semi-final second leg with the UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders. The Raiders won 83-91 on the night but that was not enough to overturn a 17-point deficit from the first leg, although they were up 72-89 after the regulation four quarters to force overtime.

The Eagles, who have won 11 of the last 13 meetings between the sides, broke Plymouth hearts once more after beating them in both the Cup and Trophy finals last season. The Eagles were led 19 from Charles Smith and 18 from Damon Huffman, meaning they had 48 and 47 respectively over the two legs, 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

The teams were tied at 8 early on, after Huffman’s three-pointer levelled it for the Eagles as their visitors edged them through much of the early exchanges. That pattern was maintained throughout the first quarter, although the Raiders did begin to eat into the aggregate gap when they took an 8-14 lead with a 6-0 run. The Eagles came back to level at 16 on Maddox’s dunk, but Colin O’Reilly’s three-pointer helped the Raiders to a 19-24 lead after ten minutes.

The Raiders opened the second stanza with the first two scores, from Schneck, who already had 13 points by that stage, and Jeremy Bell, and they pushed on to really threaten Newcastle’s aggregate lead by taking a 19-32 lead on Schneck’s score, the gap down to just 4. Joe Chapman responded immediately with a three-pointer to steady his team’s nerves. But the Raiders would maintain a double-digit advantage up to the half, as they restricted the hosts to just 10 second quarter points. Colin O’Reilly’s triple made it 26-40, but that was matched by Chapman before neither side scored in the last 2.30 and they went into the break at 29-40.

The Eagles settled things down in the third quarter and began to chip into the visitor’s lead immediately with a 6-0 run capped by Smith to make the score 37-44. They got closer still when Fab Flournoy scored midway through the quarter for 45-50, but the resolute Raiders began to threaten again thereafter. They hit back with a 9-1 run, O’Reilly scoring the first 5, and they were soon back in the territory that threatened the aggregate lead at 46-59. But again one of the Eagles’ stars was there, Smith this time, with a three-pointer. That was followed by a Chapman triple, and the Eagles headed into the decisive stanza – the last of eight across the two legs – trailing by 9, but up 8 on aggregate.

The Eagles clamped down defensively, as they so often do in tight situations, and didn’t allow their visitors a score in the first three minutes of the fourth, making the first two baskets themselves through Darius Defoe and Smith. Midway through the period they still held a 10-point aggregate advantage, before all of that went out the window as the Raiders rattled off 20 points in the last five minutes. The first time that they levelled it on aggregate came with 1.52 to play after they scored 5 in a row with Bell making 4 of those. Huffman responded for the Eagles and Maddox made one of two at the line for 72-86 on the night, meaning that it was still a one possession game on aggregate. That was decisive as Bell netted a three-pointer to tie it up with 29 seconds remaining. Chapman had a chance to win it for the Eagles at the end of regulation time, but his three-pointer missed.

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, that defence ultimately winning the game for them.