Newcastle moved to the top of the BBL standings with a 91-74 at London Lions coupled with Leicester’s second defeat of the season.
Riders were beaten 86-82 in Plymouth and are now two points behind last year’s winners of all four trophies although they do have a game in hand.
Cheshire and Glasgow returned to winning ways following their recent defeats as they were victorious against Sheffield and Mersey respectively.
Damon Huffman continued his fine form for Newcastle with an impressive 36 point haul on the road, which contained 8 triples. Kareem Maddox contributed 17 rebounds along with 14 points while the Lions were led by Duane James, who scored 19 points.
The home side made the slightly better start and edged ahead at 20-19 at the end of the opening quarter. However, the visiting Eagles restricted their opponents to just eight second quarter points whilst using a 14-2 burst to open up a 42-28 half-time advantage.
London found themselves trailing by 17 early on when play resumed but managed to reduce their arrears into single figures when Orlan Jackman netted from long range. Their main problem was Huffman was doing the same at the other end and the 27 year-old fired in a further two three-pointers as the lead crept back up to fifteen with ten minutes to go, 66-51.
A run of ten unanswered points ended any hope of another London comeback in Crystal Palace this season as Newcastle marked their return to the top of the table with a convincing win over the Lions.
Plymouth were determined not to fall to a second home defeat against the league’s top two in as many weeks in hope to keep their own title ambitions alive.
The tone was set in the first quarter as Zaire Taylor finished with the final five points to tie the game at 20. Matt Schneck helped the Raiders into a seven point lead but the home side were pegged back by half-time, where they now led 44-42.
Leicester took the lead midway through the third but Jeremy Bell and Javarris Barnett both struck from beyond the arc. The visitors responded and a late show from Taylor once again levelled the match with the teams tied at 65 heading into the final quarter.
Plymouth made their move as Michael Ojo and Bell contributed triples in a 13-2 start to take a controlling lead. Former-Raider Anthony Rowe helped spark a revival for the Riders before Taylor added five points in quick succession to make it a one point game in the final minute.
Schneck proved to be the hero for Plymouth, making 3/4 free throw attempts to seal the win and finish with a team-high 19 points and 14 rebounds. Taylor’s game high 29 points were in vain for Leicester, who drop into second place.
Glasgow were emphatic 109-72 winners over the Mersey Tigers with as seven Rocks players reached double-figures, led by Gareth Murray’s 21 points. The lead had peaked at 43 points as the home side threatened to inflict a huge defeat on Mersey but for a spirited final quarter from the visitors, who were led by a 22 point haul from Gael Hulsen.
The final game on Sunday went down to the wire as Jerome Gumbs nailed a free throw in the final seconds to give Cheshire an 80-79 victory over Sheffield. The visiting Sharks had battled back from 11 points down in the final quarter and drew level after a BJ Holmes triple before Gumbs’ killer blow.
Sheffield had led 30-29 at half-time before a strong third quarter put Cheshire in control. Phoenix were led by Gabriele Haskins’ 26 points with a further 22 from Gumbs while Holmes top scored for Atiba Lyons’ men with 24 points as they fell short of a fourth straight win.
There was a change at the top while the battle for 8th spot intensified over the weekend:
Newcastle Eagles 13-2 (26pts); Leicester Riders 12-2 (24pts); Surrey Heat 10-3 (20pts); Plymouth Raiders 9-5 (18pts); Worcester Wolves 8-7 (16pts); Glasgow Rocks 7-6 (14pts); London Lions 7-8 (14pts); Cheshire Phoenix 7-9 (14pts); Sheffield Sharks 5-9 (10pts); Manchester Giants 5-10 (10pts); Durham Wildcats 3-11 (6pts); Mersey Tigers 0-14 (0pts)