Basketball: Eagles set to spread their wings into Europe

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The Independent Online

Newcastle Eagles, newly-crowned champions of the British Basketball League for the first time in their history, are considering a major step up in competition by entering next season's ULEB Cup, the second-ranking tournament in the European hierarchy.

Eagles are set for a clean sweep of domestic titles after this week adding the league to the BBL Cup and Trophy titles. Only the play-offs are now left for player-coach Fab Flournoy's team to emulate the "Jet Wash" of the 2002 Chester Jets.

But the Eagles are already planning for next season and the managing director, Paul Blake, who is also chairman of the BBL, confirmed he is to travel to Barcelona to meet officials of ULEB, who have allocated a place for an English club for next season.

"Apart from discussing whether we play in next season's competition, it is also important for the BBL to develop a relationship with ULEB," Blake said. "Both from the Eagles and BBL points of view I would not be doing my job if I did not explore those possibilities."

Bizarrely, the Eagles lost 104-108 at home last night to bottom club Birmingham Bullets. Eagles' Jeremy Hyatt and TJ Walker played with injuries and Flournoy came off the bench for only the last five minutes. Yorick Williams led the Bullets with 36 points. Fourth-placed London Towers ended the regular season with an 88-65 defeat against Leicester Riders that should earn them a play-off quarter-final slot. Milton Keynes beat Chester Jets 91-85, but still need results to go their way to climb from 10th to eighth and the final play-off berth.

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