Basketball: Sullivan leads Eagles offensive

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The Independent Online

By Richard Taylor

By Richard Taylor

The Newcastle Eagles did all they could to win the British Basketball League championship last night, but even a 95-62 hammering of the Sheffield Sharks at Ponds Forge on the final day of the campaign left their dreams in the balance.

Chester Jets, tipping off at home to London Towers as the Eagles were completing their win, knew that a victory by any margin would give them the title - but against a Towers team which had won 11 in a row and with the former Jets coach Robbie Peers calling the plays.

Newcastle opened 13-2 and led Sheffield 20-12 at the end of the first quarter and stretched 45-34 ahead at half-time before racing to a 68-50 lead at the end of the third to pile the pressure on the Jets. The fourth quarter brought another blitz - 19-6 for an 87-56 lead - as Andrew Sullivan led the Eagles' scorers with 23 points.

The title beckoned for the Eagles on Friday night when, in front of 5,000 supporters at the Telewest Arena, any victory over Chester would have seen them crowned champions. Instead the Jets, needing to win by nine, led by 18 points in the third quarter as the 33-point Trey Moore proved unstoppable.

Sullivan, the outstanding English player in the BBL this season, scored seven points in a 9-0 Eagles run to cut Jets' lead to six and the final scoreline of 96-94 to the Jets delayed either team claiming the title.

Away from the title cliff-hanger the remaining clubs were jostling for play-off positions after the Milton Keynes Lions claimed the final slot in the quarter-final line-up with Friday night's 78-66 win over the Leicester Riders, who will finish 10th behind Plymouth Raiders and above the bottom club Birmingham Bullets.

The Lions led Leicester from start to finish but sealed the win only over the final stretch with a 10-2 run.

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