Caledonia Gladiators 77-83 Newcastle Eagles (18-12, 35-38, 53-63)
(Gladiators: Durham, 19; Onwas, 17; Sloan, 14 — Eagles: Johnson, 24; French, 14; Cohn, 13)
The Eagles have done all they have needed to do in order to sneak eighth place from the Plymouth City Patriots, who play the London Lions tomorrow night (Friday).
Should the Patriots lose, then it sets up a final day showdown between Newcastle and Plymouth at the Pavilions on Sunday.
Playing without Javion Hamlet, Kyle Johnson stepped up to lead the winners with 24 points off 9/15 shooting. Hasahn French added a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Al Durham paced Caledonia with 19 points and Princeton Onwas added 17.
After a slow start, Caledonia, thanks to Fahro Alihodzic built a four-point lead towards the midway point of the first and with Eagles getting the majority of their points at the foul line to reduce the deficit, David Sloan broke in transition to lob it to Onwas for the two-hand slam, giving the hosts a 12-9 advantage.
From there, the Gladiators were able to up the tempo in the final stages of the first as they took an 18-12 cushion, heading into the second.
Playing for their playoff lives, Newcastle came out fighting in a scrappy second, and a 10-2 run, capped off by a score under the basket from Johnson gave the Eagles a 34-32 lead with 1:53 remaining.
Durham responded almost instantly for Caledonia with a three-point play but the visitors matched them yet again with Johnson once again at the heart of Newcastle’s offence.
The Eagles were able to take a 38-35 lead heading into the third period, which became 50-44 with four minutes of the quarter played thanks to a three from Johnson.
Caledonia threatened briefly but Newcastle were in a groove and with 2:06 remaining, a trademark jumper from Darius Defoe gave his side a 60-49 cushion.
It was certainly a big quarter for the visitors, up by ten points after three as executed at the offensive end and forcing Caledonia into tough offences altogether.
The Gladiators pushed hard in the early stages of the fourth but a 7-0 run by the Eagles was vital. The hosts made one final push in the final minute but Newcastle were able to ice the game from the foul line.