Rocks stumble in Newcastle

Rocks robbed in Newcastle

Newcastle Eagles 93 (19,48,61) (Huffman 36, Smith 21, Defoe 19)
Glasgow Rocks 80 (21,40,66) (Vanderbeken 15, Harrison 14, Ringgold 14)

The Newcastle Eagles overcame the Glasgow Rocks by 93-80 to bounce back from their midweek defeat as they look to build momentum for the BBL Championship Playoffs. The defeat for the Rocks was their first in three games, although they haven’t won on the road since mid-February, and means that they can still be relieved of their third spot in the table by the Surrey Heat.

It was a fascinating game that was turned on its head numerous times as the momentum pendulum swung from quarter to quarter. Damon Huffman turned in one of the performances of the season as he poured in 36 points on 6/9 three-pointers, while Charles Smith added 21 and Darius Defoe scored 19. Jamie Vanderbeken led the Rocks with 15 points, 12 of which came in the space of three and a half third quarter minutes.

The shifting momentum of the first quarter set the tone for what would come. After exchanging baskets to 4-4, the Eagles surged ahead with a 9-2 burst capped by Huffman’s three-pointer as he scored 7 points in the opening five minutes. But that was as good as it would get for the Eagles in the first quarter as Andrew Wedemire scored the next 5 points for the visitors, and they took the lead soon after at 15-16 on Gareth Murray’s score. In all, the run became 12-2 and EJ Harrison added a three-pointer with a minute to play in the first to see the Rocks up 19-21.

But the Eagles dominated the second stanza, despite the Rocks scoring 9 of the first 11 points. From there, the Eagles immediately set about taking charge, sparked by Joe Chapman’s three-pointer. A 9-0 burst over two minutes tied the game at 30 on Huffman’s triple and, after the Rocks tried to steady themselves, another 11-0 burst saw the Eagles go 43-36 in front, with Huffman scoring the first 4 and Smith the last 6. Huffman added another three on the buzzer for a half time score of 48-40, with the guard on 17 first half points.

But what the Eagles managed in the second quarter, the Rocks bettered in the third. They scored the first 4 points and Vanderbeken added a three-pointer to make it a one possession game at 50-47; he made another one soon after to tie the game at 52 in what became a 12-4 start to the third. When Vanderbeken added his third triple in five minutes the Rocks took the lead back, and it swelled to 54-62 when he scored his fourth a minute later as his team scored 10 unanswered points. The Rocks did the damage in that spell and the teams traded baskets thereafter, heading into the decisive period at 61-66.

But that was far from the final word as the pendulum swung once more, and decisively, in the favour of the Eagles. It all came, with nine minutes to play, through a 16-3 surge as they shackled their visitors. Defoe started the run with 4 points and the Eagles took the lead at 72-71 after Chapman capped 7 straight points. Soon after, Huffman scored 8 in a row for his team, including two more from beyond the arc, as they established an 81-74 lead that gave them the cushion that settled the game. The Rocks pushed to get close down the stretch, but they were only exposed as Huffman scored Newcastle’s final 10 points to push the winning margin into double-digits as he scored a massive 19 fourth quarter points.

The Rocks can still clinch third place with a win against Mersey Tigers tomorrow – tickets are still available for the game.

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