|2015/16 League Table|
Eagles, in pursuit of their third consecutive league title, have returned most of their side from last season and that cohesion showed as five players scored in double-figures, led by veteran Charles Smith.
Elsewhere, last season’s third-placed finishers, Worcester Wolves, started with an 80-69 home win over Glasgow Rocks after a strong fourth quarter. Unlike the Eagles, they were led by two new boys as Pavol Losonosky (20) and Jay Couisnard (19) combined for almost half of their points.
Finally, another of last season’s top four, Cheshire Phoenix, were also successful as they used a powerful defensive display to see off Leeds Force, 68-82, with captain David Aliu hitting 25 points.
Leeds Force 68 (6,36,52) (Wells 21, Camille 17, Bethune 10)
Cheshire Phoenix 82 (15,31,58) (Aliu 25, Williams 18, Ellis 16)
Cheshire Phoenix got the 2015-16 BBL Championship campaign off to a winning start with a 68-82 win on the other side of the Pennines against Leeds Force, led by their captain David Aliu with 25 points and six rebounds.
In a rollercoaster of a game, Phoenix looked impenetrable defensively early on as they forced eight first quarter turnovers and held the Force to just six points, leading 6-15. But Leeds turned it round, using a 16-2 second quarter surge to lead 36-31 as Dwayne Camille hit a triple – he had five on the night.
In the break, John Lavery reminded his Phoenix side of what they had done in the first quarter, and they held Leeds scoreless for another four minutes to start the third period, forcing them to miss their first eight shots. Cheshire rattled off 14 points in that spell, with triples from Aliu and Akeem Ellis, and led 36-45.
But the Force would not be shaken off, and they came back to tie the game at 60 in the fourth quarter on another Camille trey. However, as it had done earlier, the Phoenix defence came to the fore to settle the game: they stopped the hosts in their tracks, shutting them out for another five minutes, and Ellis sparked an 11-0 surge in which Aliu and Jordan Williams added triples to seal the game down the stretch.
Sheffield Sharks 78 (24,40,60) (Tuck 21, Odister 18, Brooks 17)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 85 (24,40,63) (Smith 25, Fletcher 15, Chapman 13)
The reigning BBL Champions, Esh Group Eagles Newcastle, started their pursuit of a third consecutive BBL Championship title with a hard fought 78-85 road win at Sheffield Sharks.
The Eagles have returned much of their clean sweep winning side from last season, and it was veteran Charles Smith who led the way with 25 points, on a night when they had five players score in double-figures.
Eagles had beaten the Sharks by 30 points when they last met, in the Play-Off semi-finals last season, and they flirted with a double digit lead early in this game, at 12-21, before Mike Tuck pulled the Sharks back as he scored 11 first quarter points.
And the game was tight from there, with the Eagles having to come back before the half when they scored the last seven points, capped by Smith’s three-pointer to tie the game at 40.
The teams were still tied, at 73, inside the final five minutes of the game, when Smith connected from long range once more and gave the visitors a lead that they would not relinquish. He added another to keep the hosts at arm’s length, while Andy Thomson and Joe Chapman maintained their composure at the free-throw line to see the game out, with the Sharks missing five of their last six shots.
Worcester Wolves 80 (23,42,60) (Losonsky 20, Couisnard 19, Smith 16)
Glasgow Rocks 69 (22,44,58) (Gillis 22, Achara 17, Grabau 11)
The new look Worcester Wolves started the BBL Championship campaign in impressive manner with an 80-69 victory over Glasgow Rocks, with debutants Pavol Losonsky and Jay Couisnard sharing almost half of those points.
But it was not until the fourth quarter that the Wolves – third-place finishers last season – managed to see off their visitors. Rocks’ new boy Warren Gillis had scored seven points in a row in the third period to give them a 51-56 lead.
Couisnard hit back with a three-pointer, and Losonsky added consecutive baskets to complete a 9-2 finish and see the Wolves head into the decisive stanza 60-58 to the good. Once in the fourth, five points in a row from Malik Smith gave the hosts a cushion, and they saw the game out from the free-throw line before Losonsky ended the scoring.
Losonsky finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds on 71% shooting from the inside; while Couisnard added 19 after hitting four three-pointers.
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