BallinEurope’s man in the UK, Sam Chadwick, checks in from the ‘Isles to give us an update on hoops happenings there. With the playoff picture taking shape, much of the focus has been on the Newcastle Eagles – in just a week, this side has been crowned regular-season champs, suffered a wicked upset and, most importantly in the long run, the possibility of playing in a European competition in 2012-13. But Sam can tell you about all that, and the other games, too.

This past weekend saw a total of eight BBL Championship games take place, starting with the crowning of the league regular-season champion Newcastle Eagles and finishing Sunday with the Cheshire Jets locking up a playoff position with a win over the Glasgow Rocks.

Friday night may have seen Newcastle receive the BBL Championship Trophy but they went on to suffer a shocking loss to the second-from-bottom Mersey Tigers, 81-72. That game saw Myles Hesson lead the Tigers with a solid 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists, five steals and one block, though turning it over six times; Sam Cricelli finished with a double-double going for 18 points, 16 rebounds, two assists and two steals; and David Aliu added a double-double of his own with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.

For the Eagles, Joe Chapman was the high point man with 23 points to go with a pair of rebounds. Darius Defoe had a huge 21 points, 15 rebounds and one steal, while Paul Gause had an all-around 12 point, seven-rebound, six-assist, six-steal outing.

The Tigers took advantage of Eagle mistakes to score 21 points off turnovers; they also scored better from the field, shooting 46% to Newcastle’s 33%. The Tigers led almost every statistical category in playing with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude.

The Milton Keynes Lions lost out in their playoff hunt by going down 95-78 to the Cheshire Jets. The Lions’ Daniel Northern did what he could to get his team the win with 23 points, eight rebounds, one assist and a steal. Demarius Bolds finished with 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and six turnovers, and lastly Adrien Sturt chipped in 15 points to go with seven rebounds and a pair of assists.

For the Jets, Colin O’Reilly stepped up with a big 24 points while shooting 60% from the field and 67% on threes; he added two rebounds and three assists. In addition to O’Reilly, the Jets had three players double-double: Bill Cole at 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists; Adam Brown at 25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals; and Matthew Schneck at 12 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal.

This game was knotted up after the first quarter, 23-23, but the Jets turned it up in the second and ultimately outscored the Lions 72-55 across the final three quarters.

Friday’s final game was another battle for playoff position, as the Sheffield Sharks hosted the Glasgow Rocks. However a bad first quarter from the home side led to the Sharks’ struggle to come back and eventually suffer an 83-76 defeat. The Sharks were again led by Mike Tuck who finished with a double-double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and one assist. Ryan Patton contributed 18 points, seven assists and three rebounds, while Olu Babalola finished with a near double-double of 17 points and nine rebounds.

For the Rocks, Mychal Green led with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Andrew Wedemire finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Deaundre Cranson 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists. After the Rocks’ 22-14 first quarter advantage, the game was evenly matched throughout.

Saturday night, the Guildford Heat lost out to bottom-of-the-league Durham Wildcats, going down 96-85 following a 53-44 halftime score line. The Wildcats got a huge game from Ralph Bucci who finished with a near triple-double of 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds alongside two steals and one block. Mike Capocci was solid all-around with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists, and D.J. Glavan contributed 20 points, seven assists and two rebounds. The Wildcats finished with a solid 29 assists and 41 field goals made.

For the Heat, Tayo Ogedengbe laid it all on the line with 26 points, four rebounds and one assist while Martelle Mclemore finished with 15 points and eight rebounds (five offensive) and Frank Holmes added a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds (seven offensive).

The Worcester Wolves got a vital win in their hunt for second place with a 93-71 victory over the Leicester Riders. The Wolves got a solid 24 points, eight rebounds and three blocks from Richie Gordon; a even 10-point, 10-rebound double-double from Arnas Kazlauskas; and 17 points, three rebounds and two assists from Sherrad Prezzie-Blue. The Riders did make a small comeback in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wolves, 19-26. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough…

The Riders did get 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists from Andrew Sullivan; Bradd Wierzbicki contributed 13 points, four rebounds and two assists; while Yorick Williams chipped in 14 points including 67% from deep.

Sunday saw the Wolves play for the second day straight but this time coming up with an away loss to the Plymouth Raiders, 94-80. The Raiders were led by an outstanding game from Michael Ojo: 31 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Paul Williams added a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while James Jones also finished with a double-double of 11 points and 14 assists plus five rebounds.

For the Wolves, Arnas Kazlauskas led the way with 23 points – including six threes – five rebounds and a pair of assists. Tommy Freeman finished with a similar line of 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Prezzie-Blue had 12 points and seven assists.

The Cheshire Jets followed their Friday night victory over the MK Lions with an 80-64 home victory against the Glasgow Rocks. It was again Colin O’Reilly leading the Jets, contributing 31 points, five rebounds and four assists. Adam Brown finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Matt Schneck was good for 11 points and seven rebounds.

For the Rocks, E.J. Harrison top-scored with a mere 15 points to go with one rebound and one assist. Mychal Green managed just 10 points and five rebounds and Deaundre Cranson added eight points and 10 rebounds. The Rocks managed just 32% shooting from the field and 22% from deep while finishing with a low eight assists and 25 field goals made.

The final game of the weekend saw the Mersey Tigers clinch another vital victory, 94-86, but unfortunately couldn’t lock up a playoff position. Daniel Northern finished with a solid 28 points while Demarius Bolds added 22 and Adrien Sturt added 10 points of his own. For the Tigers it was again Sam Cricelli who led the way with 20 points, David Aliu chipped in 18 while Hesson finished off an amazing weekend with 15 points.

In other news, the Newcastle Eagles – who are one BBL Playoff Trophy away from a clean sweep in British basketball in 2011-12 – are looking into the possibility of playing in Europe next season.
Newcastle Eagles owner/British Basketball League chairman Paul Blake told England-based Tyne and Wear Sky that the Newcastle Eagles playing in a Continental competition is “Clearly … the next stage for us as a club, maybe next season or maybe sometime in the future. I’d love to do it, we have to do it, it is only natural.”

Blake added that “From what I am being told, there will be at the very least a pre-qualifying spot for the British champions in the EuroCup.” [So, FIBA EuroChallenge 2012-13, then…? – Ed.]
Eagles boss Paul Blake will be meeting with ULEB officials and representatives in Barcelona next week, when next season’s structure will be finalized.

Sam Chadwick is the co-head coach of the Solent Kestrels U14 basketball team, along with dividing the remainder of his time among an assistant quantity surveyor job, university studies and sportswriting. Chadwick is now a contributor at BBLfans.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @chadwick9.

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