NEWCASTLE EAGLES needed overtime against the visiting Leicester Riders, but became the second North-East sports team to book a ticket to Wembley this weekend.
Having erased an 11-point deficit from the first leg in regulation, the BBL Championship winners finished off the deed in overtime, registering an 83-71 victory after five extra minutes of play to win the tie by a single point on aggregate and join Gateshead FC in sealing their trip to Wembley.
Paul Gause had given Eagles a 73-58 lead with 1:36 left in regulation, but a pair of baskets by Drew Sullivan and Rashad Hassan evened up the score, forcing an extra period. However, the hosts restored the 15-point margin in extra time, only to see it sliced to 12 points with 11 seconds to go after Sullivan hit a clutch three-pointer.
Although Riders managed to get a steal and had an opportunity to swing the tie their way, Jay Calvo's shot with a couple of seconds remaining didn't reach the target, with the home crowd in Newcastle breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Eagles, who dominated the game the whole way after breaking away already in the opening quarter, dominated the glass, out-rebounding Riders 53-36, with three Newcastle players finishing the evening with double digits in rebounds.
Darius Defoe led all scorers with 25 points for the hosts, Malik Cooke scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and registered five steals, while Charles Smith chipped in to the hugely important victory with a big double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds.
For Riders, Jay Couisnard had a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds, Drew Sullivan added 17 points, with Rashad Hassan collecting 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.