Basketball: Sheffield clip Eagles to return to the summit

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The Independent Online

The title-holders, Sheffield Sharks, regained their two-point lead over the BBL Championship by easing to an 86-71 win over Newcastle Eagles at Ponds Forge last night, after taking control by outscoring the visitors 23-10 in the third quarter to lead 72-51.

The title-holders, Sheffield Sharks, regained their two-point lead over the BBL Championship by easing to an 86-71 win over Newcastle Eagles at Ponds Forge last night, after taking control by outscoring the visitors 23-10 in the third quarter to lead 72-51.

Sheffield's opponents in Sunday's BBL Cup Final, Scottish Rocks, lost 74-70 at Milton Keynes Lions. Rocks, under-strength since losing their leading American Niki Arinze to injury for the season, have borrowed Mike Martin from NW London for the final but still look seriously lightweight to take on the Sharks.

Brighton Bears briefly joined Sheffield at the top of the table with their 10th successive domestic win on Saturday night by dismissing Leicester Riders 97-59 at Loughborough.

Before the match, the Riders' coach, Karl Brown, had tried to convince his players that "Brighton are good, but they are not the Los Angeles Lakers". In the end, the Bears did not need to be. But Nick Nurse's team are the BBL's best rebounders at both ends of the floor, the highest scorers and have the second meanest defence behind Sheffield - all too much for the Riders.

Strong starts to the first three quarters built a 50-27 lead as Mike Brown and Rico Alderson, who is also the BBL's top offensive rebounder, hit three-pointers.

Mike Pegues, the BBL's highest individual scorer, scored almost half Riders' total with 26 and added 15 rebounds.

Elsewhere, the Birmingham coach Steve Tucker had his optimism stretched even further by the winless Bullets' 17th defeat of the season, and 12th in the BBL, by 106-83 at home to third-placed Chester Jets.

Tucker axed the fractious American Herb Baker on Friday, partly because the 6ft 9in centre criticised his coaching methods, a view he shared with many among Bullets' dwindling band of dispirited supporters.

Tucker now pins his hopes on turning round their season by this week's arrival of another American. The latest rejig comes after signing and cutting two Americans and losing four other players from the roster.

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