Newcastle Eagles play-caller Fab Flournoy was bursting with pride on the way back from the longest road trip of the season after his depleted team secured two vital road victories over the weekend to show they won’t give up their BBL Championship crown without a fight.
After point guard Reggie Jackson made a last second play at Worcester Wolves on Saturday night to secure a 79-78 overtime success, there was a certain sense of déjà vu for the Eagles when they defied the odds to emerge from Plymouth Raiders with the same score line.
“I am very proud of the guys since not only did we win two close games, we had to do it the hard way and do it through our hard work and defence.”
“This team has had an identity change during the last week or so. While we have always played hard defence, we have had to take it to another level and start holding teams to under eighty points in order to get ourselves in the position to win games.”
“It’s extra satisfying that we have won two massive basketball games in this kind of way because it has been a collective success where it wouldn’t have worked had any player not stepped up to the plate.”
“To win at Worcester was a great achievement as they played hard and were pushing for the play-offs. It was an exciting finish and we were just relieved to come out on top.”
“However, to have to come back from playing at Plymouth on your longest road trip of the season when the crowd is really up with their team 19 points ahead, you don’t have your two main scorers and decision maker on courts, you have had to integrate a new player who only joined a few days earlier and the rest of your guys are exhausted from an overtime game the night before is amazing.”
“Nobody complained about the situation at the time. We just got it done.”
Certainly the Eagles took full advantage of Mersey Tigers slipping up at Guildford Heat and the next 72 hours will be absolutely vital as Tony Garbelotto and his team match up with One Health Sharks Sheffield tomorrow and travel to Tyneside on Wednesday night in two games that could determine whether they will finish top of the heap.
Sharks kept up the pressure with wins against Thunder and Lions and are ready to make their play for top spot during this last week of the regular season.
The play-off race has looked like it might go down to the wire for some time although with a couple of games remaining for most teams, it looks Worcester Wolves and Prestige Homes MK Lions could be set to miss out.
The Lions have made a late run after a topsy-turvy campaign but their home floor loss to Sharks might have ended that revival while Wolves crashing at home to Eagles in agonising fashion may have also cost them.
UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders, Guildford Heat and Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders all claimed one big victory each over the weekend which was absolutely pivotal to them. Raiders beat Jets at home, Riders bashed Pirates and Heat claimed that eye opening win against Tigers.
In the race for a top four finish, Jets bounced back from their defeat in Devon to see off Riders 117-94 at Northgate while Rocks came storming back from their 88-50 trouncing on Merseyside to dish out a similarly decisive 98-59 thumping to Worthing Thunder.