Eagles suffer a bitter defeat

Jeremy Hyatt's dream homecoming descended into nightmare last night as one of British basketball's fiercest rivalries produced yet another classic in front of a mammoth Metro Radio Arena crowd, writes SIMON RUSHWORTH.

Jeremy Hyatt's dream homecoming descended into nightmare last night as one of British basketball's fiercest rivalries produced yet another classic in front of a mammoth Metro Radio Arena crowd, writes SIMON RUSHWORTH.

The controversial American - suspended from the greatest weekend in franchise history after he was found guilty of driving offences in April - returned to rapturous applause from a forgiving home support.

And when Hyatt finally sparked into life midway through the fourth quarter it appeared the repentant guard was set for a famous comeback in a Newcastle vest.

The Eagles overturned a seemingly impossible 19-point third period deficit to lead 64-63 with less than two minutes of regulation time remaining.

Rocks fought back but Hyatt's backcourt partner TJ Walker drove to the basket with five seconds left to tie the scores at 66-66 - only to miss the free throw which would have surely sent the visitors packing.

A thrilling advert for the British Basketball League moved into overtime and when Newcastle's Olu Babalola completed a three-point play of his own to start the extra period in style it appeared as though the Eagles were on course for a 2-2 record.

But the erratic shooting which had allowed the Rocks to open up a huge lead either side of the half returned to haunt Hyatt and his team-mates just when accuracy mattered most.

And under-pressure coach Thorsten Leibenath saw his players close out the 81-76 win which might well have saved the German's job.

All eyes were on Hyatt as the American returned from his enforced absence to a voluble show of support. But the shooting guard was unable to oust in-form Shawan Robinson from Newcastle's starting five and, when he did appear six minutes into the first quarter, his lack of match sharpness showed. Hyatt threw up a trio of three-pointers either side of the first quarter break but none found the target and after a seven-minute stint the out-of-touch star was benched.

Flournoy had turned to a four-guard offence in a bid to stop the Rocks from running away with a game few homecourt fans expected their favourites to lose.

But no number of expert shooters can turn the tide if their collective radar is off and the rim rattled time after time to the horrible sound of a series of ill-judged Newcastle efforts. And Flournoy appeared powerless to prevent Newcastle's bitter rivals from strengthening their grip on a game which has demanded top billing for the past two seasons.

And they are now looking to avoid a potentially disastrous 1-4 start.

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