Durham Wildcats 82 Newcastle Eagles 97 - (Newcastle win 194-157 on aggregate)
A sparkling effort from Darius Defoe provided the main thrust of a 97-82 victory for Newcastle Eagles over Durham Wildcats as Fab Flournoy and his team moved a step closer to collecting yet more silverware.
The most successful club in British basketball history marched into the BBL Play-off semi-finals where they will now play the side who beat them in the showpiece game at Wembley Arena last season.
It’s fair to say another showdown with Leicester Riders and former Eagles’ favourite Drew Sullivan adds further spice to what will be another blockbuster two occasions, the two-legged affair guaranteed to capture the imagination of everybody associated with the British game.
Having taken a significant 22-point lead down the A1 to Newton Aycliffe from the first leg of their quarter-final against their neighbours at Sport Central, the Eagles were always overwhelming favourites to complete the job without too many dramas.
Any rescue mission from Durham always looked to be a longshot and they needed a powerful opening to stand any chance of causing a seismic scale shock.
However, it was the Eagles who roared into an early 16-4 advantage and in the process rammed home their advantage to show there was never any doubt a semi-final ticket had already been obtained and rubber-stamped.
Although, unsurprisingly, home pride from a Durham roster who had posted a landmark and historic campaign was always going to mean they would go down fighting. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Lee Davie and his players shrugged off their sluggish start and began to cause some problems.
The hosted registered a fantastic 17-4 opening to the second period and even threatened to change the complexion of the game - even if it was never going to be enough to change the momentum of the actual tie.
The ever-impressive and versatile Danny Huffor put the Wildcats 39-34 ahead but, with little chance of genuinely embarrassing the Eagles, the Wildcats were intent on merely making life uncomfortable for their opponents.
For a while they managed to do this with real verve, but significantly the visitors finished the half with a flourish by scoring nine of the last eleven points.
It gave the recently-crowned BBL Championship winners fresh impetus and coming out of the locker room for the second half they were able to regain the initiative - which put any last lingering doubts of even the most anxious and pessimistic Eagles fan to bed.
Much of that was not only due to the terrific work of Defoe under the basket, but also Malik Cooke and Paul Gause – excellent in the backcourt and combining for 39 points.
With Scott Martin doing the dirty work on the glass and harvesting 14 rebounds and with Flournoy leading by example with seven assists, the Eagles again looked like a team full of confidence and intent on rolling forward and getting their hands on another BBL trophy.
If recent history if anything to go by, having to now go through Leicester Riders in order to do so would certainly make such an outcome even sweeter should they ultimately succeed.
Durham Wildcats: Huffor 28, Evans 12, Crecco 12, Attah 12
Newcastle Eagles: Defoe 22, Gause 20, Cooke 19