Basketball: Eagles soar to summit in pursuit of first title

Newcastle Eagles stepped up their pursuit of a first British Basketball League title last night, sweeping aside third-placed Sheffield Sharks 88-73 on Tyneside, to join Scottish Rocks in joint first place in the table but with a game in hand over the Glasgow club.

The Rocks had pulled two points clear at the top following Thursday night's 71-69 win over Brighton Bears, thanks to Frank Bennett's winning basket four seconds from time. And Rocks' coach Steve Swanson must have thought his team would maintain their advantage as Sheffield led 47-39 last night.

But Olu Babalola opened Eagles' second half with a three-point play, sparking an overwhelming 40-12 run by the Eagles over the next 14 minutes.

A Jeremy Hyatt three-pointer gave Eagles their first lead at 57-56. Then a 9-1 run, with five points from Babalola and four from Charles Smith sent a happy Eagles back to the locker room 66-57 up at the end of the third quarter.

Sharks' hopes of a revival were quickly stalled. Between the second and fourth minutes the Eagles hit another surge ­ a 10-0 run with six points from TJ Walker and four more from Smith.

Hyatt led Newcastle's scorers with 26 backed by 18 from Walker and 14 from Babalola, as the Eagles' firepower impressively coped with the absence of three team members ­ including player-coach Fab Flournoy ­ with England's bronze medal-winning team at the Commonwealth Games.

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