Mersey Tigers took control of the British Basketball League title race with a tense victory over league leaders Newcastle Eagles.
The Tigers looked like they had done enough to secure a commanding victory as they led 15 points going in to the final quarter, but a Trey Moore inspired comeback from the visitors took the game to the wire, with the win only assured when Andrew Thomson landed a free throw five seconds from time.
Nate Reinking was the star of the show for the home side, much like he was when the Tigers defeated the Eagles on their last visit to Merseyside for the BBL Cup semi-final before Christmas.
He picked up 19 points to move the Tigers level on points with the Eagles at the top of the table, having played a game less.
The Eagles started strongly with Reggie Jackson in fine form, landing three from behind the line in the first quarter, which helped him on to a game high of 27 points.
But there’s a newly found resilience about the BBL Trophy winning Tigers, and they kept answering the questions put down to them by the league leaders to go in 23-21 ahead at the end of the first.
The game was then tied at 30-30 midway through the second quarter before the home side grabbed the initiative, with Andrew Thomson among the points to put his side 43-36 to the good at half time.
Tony Garbelotto’s side came out firing after the interval and reinforced their control of the game with eight unanswered points to start the second to leave the Eagles rattled at 16 adrift.
A three pointer at the end of the third quarter from David Aliu had seemingly put the game beyond the reach of the Eagles.
But as the clock ticked down the Eagles built momentum and they managed to turn around a 15 point deficit to set up a nervous finale.
Former Tigers favourite Trey Moore, who had been kept quiet for much of the match, came to life and fired his side within four with 40 seconds on the clock.
As time ran out, the Eagles moved within three at 86-83 as the home fans began to wonder if their side were really going to throw this away.
But after the semi-final victories in the BBL Cup and BBL Trophy, the Tigers continued their spell over the Eagles by sealing victory which puts their fate in their own hands, ahead of tomorrow’s crucial away game at Leicester.
The Tigers return to the ECHO Arena on Friday, hosting Guildford Heat (7.30pm), before another top of the table clash against Sheffield Sharks again at the ECHO Arena (Wednesday, 7.30pm).