BBL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Cheshire Phoenix 85 (32,48,66) (Ellis 19, Dirkin 15, Williams 14)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 113 (29,58,83) (Fletcher 28, Smith 19, Chapman 17)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle have taken a big step towards reaching next month’s BBL Cup Final after beating Cheshire Phoenix 113-85 in the first leg of their Semi-Final tie.
Rahmon Fletcher’s 28 points proved to be the difference between the two sides as the Eagles take a commanding lead back to Sport Central for the second leg. Six players reached double figures in total as the Eagles shot 70% from inside the arc.
Charles Smith added 19 points from the bench, while Joe Chapman drained four triples on his way to 17 points as the visitors recovered from a first quarter deficit to rack up
Cheshire were boosted by the return of captain David Aliu and they made a bright start after edging a high-scoring opening quarter with Olu Babalola netting from deep to give his side a 32-29 lead.
However, the Eagles responded with an 11-0 opening to the second and would never trail again as they soon established a double-digit advantage.
Down by 10 at the half, Phoenix wanted a fast start to the third quarter, but it was their opponents who produced a 13-2 run to take the lead beyond 20 points. Cheshire rallied with a 10-2 close to the period, although they still trailed by 17 at this stage.
Newcastle went on a 10-0 run at the start of the fourth as Chapman and Smith went back-to-back from downtown before Cheshire battled to keep themselves in contention for the second leg.
Twice they fell behind by more than 30 points in the closing stages, but triples from Jeff Dirkin and Babalola kept the final margin to 28 with the defending champions in firm control of the tie.
Akeem Ellis top scored for the hosts with 19 points, and Cheshire now have a mountain to climb in order to make it to the Barclaycard Arena for January’s Final.