The visitors led for just one minute of a tight encounter and trailed by eight with under two minutes remaining but forced a thrilling finish before the home side sealed the win at the free-throw line .
Both sides went into the game under-sized with Lawrence Brown (back) and Lukas Wingegarner (illness) missing for the Big Cats and Danny Carter (hamstring) sitting out for the Rockets, and Leopards’ coach Robert Youngblood was forced to come out of retirement to finish with four points and six rebounds in 13 minutes of action .
Dave Ajumobi led the home side with a 17 point, ten rebound double-double, with Byron Richards adding three treys in his 13 points . Debutant Matic Zupanc marked his debut with 11 points, while veteran point guard Ronnie Baker showed a calming influence at key times, finishing with ten points .
Rockets were led by 13 points from Adria Baiget Marco with Deion Turman and Matt Davis adding 11 each.
The Big Cats led 12-4 after five and a half minutes, and although Youngblood marked his first game in ten months with a block and a score off Will Ashby’s missing, a strong finish to the period saw Turnman hit a pair at the foul line to cut the hosts’ lead to 16-12 at the first break .
Baker drained a triple to open the second period, and back-to-back Ajumobi shots kept the hosts ahead before Zupanc made it a ten point game with jump shot .
But the visitors responded with an 8-0 run capped by treys from Joel Keeble and Davis before Zupanc hit a pair at the foul line to give Leopards a 33-29 lead .
There was little to choose between the teams in the first five minutes of the second half, with Richards making it a six point game when he split a pair at the free-throw line .
Scores from Sergio Guardia Marti and Turnman made it a six point game to open the fourth period before Ashby replied for the Big Cats.
Scores from Albert Margai and Van Beest saw the home team move 59-50 ahead with four minutes remaining and Zupanc made it an 11 point game with three minutes on the clock .
A Turnman dunk followed by a Davis trey saw Rockets back within six before Youngblood replied at the other end.
The visitors still had one more run left as they hit five unanswered points capped by a pair of Guardia Marti free-throws to make it a three point game with 40 seconds on the clock, and after Ajumobi and Guardia Marti had each split a pair at the line it was 64-61 with 25 seconds left.
In the end it was Baker who sealed the win as the 45-year-old remained ice cool at the foul to sink four straight shots and send the noisy Brentwood crowd home happy.
Newcastle Eagles 88
Adidas Greater London Leopards 78
Budweiser British Basketball League
@ Metro Radio Arena