BBL Play-Offs Quarter-Final, second leg
Cheshire Phoenix 87 (33,46,72) (Rochford 27, Huffor 16, Aliu/Ellis/Taylor 13)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 96 (26,50,71) (Defoe 34, Smith 26, Fletcher 17)
Phoenix win 191-187 on aggregate.
Cheshire Phoenix survived a late surge from Esh Group Eagles Newcastle as they advanced to the BBL Play-Offs Semi-Finals with an overall 191-187 victory despite losing 87-96 on the night.
The home side led by 20 points on aggregate at the end of the first quarter, but the Eagles stormed all the back and took the lead when Charles Smith’s three made it 77-91 inside the final two minutes.
However, Cheshire were able to hold on by keeping their nerve at the free throw line to ice the overall victory and set up a last four showdown with Leicester Riders next weekend.
Kinu Rochford led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while the Eagles had a combined 60 points from Smith and Darius Defoe, who racked up 34 points as the comeback effort came up just short.
The defending Play-Off champions were once again without starting duo Scott Martin and Andy Thomson and found themselves in a 20-point hole as they trailed 33-26 after the opening period. Newcastle turned it around in the second to lead by four on the night at half-time to keep their hopes alive.
Back-to-back triples from David Aliu tied the game at 58-58 in the third, and his side were able to edge ahead by one by the end of the period to extend their aggregate cushion to 14 points ahead of the final quarter.
An 8-2 start to the fourth was soon followed by a 10-0 run to close within a single point in the tie. Smith went 1-of-2 from the free throw line before netting a big three to fire Newcastle ahead on aggregate.
Cheshire regained their composure with a quick score from Rochford and after Fab Flournoy split a pair of free throws, overtime beckoned with less than 20 seconds remaining.
However, clutch free throws from Akeem Ellis followed by an important steal from Quincy Taylor allowed the home side to wrap up the victory and seal their spot in the Semi-Finals.