Basketball: Jets power to championship

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The Independent Online

Chester Jets are the British Basketball League champions after their 97-74 triumph over the London Towers last night snatched the title from Newcastle Eagles, who had earlier put one hand on the trophy when they hammered the Sheffield Sharks 95-62.

Chester Jets are the British Basketball League champions after their 97-74 triumph over the London Towers last night snatched the title from Newcastle Eagles, who had earlier put one hand on the trophy when they hammered the Sheffield Sharks 95-62.

Newcastle feared that even such a resounding win might not be enough, after they lost the chance to claim the crown outright on Friday night with a 96-94 home defeat against Chester. The defeat gave Chester a second chance which they seized in emphatic style by opening a 74-52 lead over London in the third quarter.

"It's a great achievement for the club and everyone connected with it" said Paul Smith, the Jets coach. "It's not just for the players, but everyone behind the scenes who helps us. We may not be a big club, but we quietly go about our business. We've had our difficulties this season, not least losing our best player Calvin Davis for a large part of it through injury."

Last season Smith guided the Jets to the BBL Trophy in his first campaign after taking over from Robbie Peers, now the Towers coach, who led Chester to the "Jet Wash" in the 2001-02 season, when they won the Northern Conference, the Play-offs, the BBL Trophy as well as the National Cup.

But this is the first time Jets have won the championship since the BBL dispensed with north and south conferences for a single league format.

Smith enjoyed success as Peers' assistant, but said last night: "This is probably the highest point of all the high points of my career."

The title beckoned for the Eagles on Friday when, in front of 5,000 supporters at the Telewest Arena, any victory over Chester would have been enough. Instead the Jets, needing to win by nine, raced to an 18-point lead in the third quarter before the Eagles fought back to leave it 96-94 at the whistle.

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