The BBL Champions, Newcastle Eagles, have lost three games in a row after going down 81-96 at home to the Cheshire Jets, who themselves have won three in a row and five of their last six as they chase sixth spot in the BBL Championship table – they can secure that with a win over the One Health Sharks Sheffield on Sunday.
Kai Williams led all scorers with 29 points, including 5/6 three-pointers, and 8 rebounds; both Colin O’Reilly (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Matt Schneck (15 & 16) had double-doubles for the Jets. A youthful looking Eagles were led by Paul Gause’s 26 points.
The Jets raced into a 0-5 lead as O’Reilly hit a three-pointer in the opening minute and the score was soon 1-7. The Eagles reversed that to lead 10-9 with a run that began with Andrew Bridge’s three-pointer and ended with 4 points from Joel Madourie, his dunk putting the hosts in front. From there the teams traded baskets as six lead changes followed before Jack Wilson’s score saw the Eagles up 20-17 inside the final three minutes of the first period. However, it was the visitors who would finish the stronger as they posted an 11-2 surge, including 5 for Williams, to lead 22-28 at the end of the period.
That momentum carried into the second stanza as 8 straight points, including another Williams triple and one for Adam Brown, saw the Jets go up by double-digits at 29-36 after two minutes. But Gause responded immediately with a three-pointer of his own, and that ignited a characteristic 12-0 response from the champions with Gause scoring another long-ranger and Madourie making it 38-39 with less than four minutes to play in the half. A couple of lead changes followed, before the Jets finished with a 6-2 run in the last two minutes with another Williams triple helping the score to 45-49 at the break and a lead that they would not relinquish.
The Jets mirrored that with a 6-2 opening to the third quarter, with another 4 for Williams, to make the score 47-55 and ensuring that the Eagles would be chasing the game in the second half. The Jets kept their lead at around that margin for most of the third period until, astonishingly, big man Darius Defoe hit his first three-pointer of the season for the Eagles to narrow the gap to 63-67 with 1.20 to play. But that just seemed to rouse the Jets as they hit a rapid 8 points – five for O’Reilly and another three for Williams – before Gause made a buzzer-beating triple to see the Eagles down 66-75 heading into the decisive period.
Bill Cole opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer for the visitors, thereby setting the tone. The Eagles got a little closer but the lead went through the double-digit mark for good bang on the midway point of the fourth quarter as Brown scored to make it 75-85, before the lead peaked at the final score which, fittingly, was a three-pointer from Kai Williams.
Newcastle Eagles 81 (22,45,66) (Gause 26, Defoe 16, Madourie 16)
Cheshire Jets 96 (28,49,75) (Williams 29, Brown 21, O’Reilly 19)