This weekend saw the Under 16s Eagles back in league action at home to Cheshire Phoenix. Both teams had started the season with some mixed results and on paper it looked like it would be a really close game.
Cheshire started the game brightly, frustrating the hosts with their 2-3 zone and moving the ball to find open shooters on offence. With five minutes gone the Eagles would call a timeout and the score was 6-8 in favour of the visitors. Unfortunately for the hosts their offensive woes continued after the break in play. The away sides defence was very restricting and despite some good ball movement the Eagles simply couldn’t convert the looks they were creating. Cheshire also began to hit some tough shots on offence after the Eagles had played good defence and forced the away side late into the shot clock. The score going into the second quarter was 8-19 in favour of the travelling team.
The second quarter was very low scoring from both sides. It was testament to the Eagles defence that they only conceded 11 points but again the organisation of Phoenix on defence was forcing the hosts into shooting from long range and the Eagles just simply weren’t hitting their shots. The score at halftime was 19-30 (11-11).
After half time the Eagles would rally. An and1 for Kande opened the scoring as the Eagles went on a 14-5 run behind nine points from Fetherston; the last of those points coming from a huge three to cut the visitors lead to just two. A lay-up in transition for Mamuini would have the scores level before Cheshire responded with a couple of inside finishes to put them back in front. The quarter would end with the teams trading baskets, but this period was a firm win for the Eagles 37-41 (18-11).
The final quarter was a real seesaw affair. The Eagles would go on a 7-2 run over the first three minutes to just get their noses in front (44-43). Cheshire would respond behind back-to-back efforts from Graham to regain the lead by four points but again the home side would rally. The intensity on defence was causing the visitors all kinds of issues and two quick stops in succession were taken all the way as Bond and Mamuini got to the basket and had the teams back level. With one minute left and the scores tied Cheshire would find a big three from behind the arc. The shot clock was down to two and Smith stepped up to hit an enormous long-range effort, pushing the visitors back in front. As they had done all game the Eagles would respond, finding Fetherston open on the weak side to nail a massive three-point effort and tie the game up at 57-57! With 40 seconds left Cheshire would find the killer blow; after just scoring a lay-up in transition they would get a stop and Graham would hit a big three to extend their lead to five. The home side would then be fouled in the act of shooting but could only convert 1 of 2 from the line. After a couple of fouls to try and stop the clock and regain possession the visitors would just get over the victory line, winning the game 58-66.
The Eagles showed real fighting spirit to get themselves back into this game after a sluggish start. Credit must go to Cheshire Phoenix who stepped up and hit some big shots late on but the boys from Newcastle can take some real positives from this performance. Those who have been following the Under 16s efforts this season will clearly see the improvements over the last few games and with another week of training before their next contest the Eagles will no doubt keep pushing on.
The Under 16s are next in action away to Mansfield next weekend in what is sure to be a tough contest against the Giants.
Scorers: Mamuini 16, Fetherston 15, Bond 11, Kande 7, Proctor 5, Jerrard 2, Sukys 2