Newcastle Eagles 67-75 Cheshire Phoenix (11-31, 28-41, 47-59)
(Eagles: K. Johnson, 17; Cohn, 11; D. Johnson, 10 – Phoenix: Evans, 19; Anderson, 16; Teague, 14)
Cheshire Phoenix survived a late scare to secure a hard-fought 75-67 win over the Newcastle Eagles at the Vertu Motors Arena on Friday night.
Enjoying a lead that peaked at 20 points, the Phoenix looked comfortable but turnovers from them allowed the hosts back into the ball game in the fourth.
And a three-pointer from Eagles sharp-shooter David Cohn made it a one possession game with 3:49 remaining, as the home side looked to complete a memorable comeback.
But, Phoenix, without star guard Larry Austin Jr., looked to Marcus Evans to step up – and the guard did just that – scoring the final nine points for the visitors to take them over the line.
Evans led all scorers with 19 points for the Phoenix, supported by 16 for Jamell Anderson, who went a perfect 6/6 from the field.
Phoenix coach Ben Thomas said: “In the first quarter we really see a lot of the stuff that we’ve been working on this week. But obviously they made adjustments and they made it tougher for us.
“We relied on our defence at times and it took us over the line so we’re really happy.”
Kyle Johnson paced the Eagles with 17 points, with free scoring Javion Hamlet limited to just eight points.
“Hamlet is a really good scorer, and we just had to make sure that we limited his touches whenever we could,” Thomas added.
Inserted into the starting line-up in the absence of Austin Jr., Will Neighbour hit the first score of the game with a three-pointer.
That was the first of six triples that the Phoenix hit in the first quarter, as Newcastle were guilty of playing isolation basketball in the opening stages.
Trailing 20-5 with 2:46 left in the first, Justin Everett gave something for the Eagles flock to cheer about with a three-point play, but their hopes of an early comeback were quickly dashed.
Cheshire’s offence was on fire as they shot 66% in the first ten minutes, and a Jack Hudson buzzer-beater gave them a mammoth 31-11 lead heading into the second.
However, Cheshire suddenly went cold in the first seven minutes of the second as they only managed five points, leaving the Eagles free to chip away at the deficit.
Back-to-back transition points from Javion Hamlet gave the hosts hope as their defence, led by debutant Hasahn French, caused the Phoenix problems.
And as the half neared, patient build-up play from Cohn led to an open dunk from Darius Defoe to narrow the gap, but Cheshire still enjoyed a 41-28 advantage.
Like they did in the first quarter, the Phoenix were able to enjoy a 19-point cushion a few times, highlighted by a dunk from Anderson with 4:19 remaining.
Eagles though, refused to quit. A trademark of the franchise over the years and once again, they managed to trim the deficit to 12 points thanks to a three from Ben Mockford.
It was all to play for in the final period. Cheshire maintained their double-digit advantage, but you sensed another Newcastle comeback.
And for the majority of the fourth, the Eagles knocked at the door and when Cohn drilled a three to make it 66-63 with a little over three minutes left, a grandstand finish looked to be on the cards.
But Evans had other ideas. Taking the game on himself to score the final nine points for the Phoenix, securing their seventh win of the BBL season.
The Phoenix are next in action on Sunday when they welcome the Surrey Scorchers, while Newcastle look to bounce back on 11 December on the road to the Caledonia Gladiators. Get your tickets to those games and all the BBL games HERE.