After nearly eight weeks without a game, the Newcastle Eagles finally got back to League action with their first home fixture of the New Year, against the Sheffield Junior Sharks. The previous game between the two sides had been won by the Sharks but the Eagles knew they could compete well with the visitors and were well prepared for the contest.
The game started with both teams struggling to put the ball in the hoop. Sheffield would score first with a shot from behind the arc, before Fetherston would get an And1 to get the hosts on the scoreboard. The Sharks would respond with a small 6-0 run before Mamuini hit a big three, followed by an And1 of his own to level the scores at 11 all. The quarter would finish with the Sharks outscoring the home team 9-5, taking a four-point lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter started badly for the Eagles as the Sharks began to dominate the interior on offence. Despite their best efforts the home side were struggling to deal with the inside presence of Deans who had six points in the first 3 minutes of the quarter. The Eagles would rally however, down by 14, the hosts would find a spark in Fetherston and Kande. A floater for Fetherston would reduce the deficit before Kande went on a six point burst to get the Eagles within six. Sheffield would close out the quarter with two scores of their own; the last shot of the half being a ¾ court shot, which banked in as the buzzer sounded. The Sharks would therefore go into halftime up 11 (28-39).
The interval gave the Eagles a chance to regroup. After the half they would come out flying! A layup for Mamuini got the scoreboard ticking as the Eagles went on a 16-4 run to take the lead (for the first time in the game) with just four minutes gone in the quarter 44-43. This run was capped off with a big shot from behind the arc for Kande (on his way to 19 points in the game). Sheffield would however respond, going on an 11-4 run to retake the lead 54-49 with 3 minutes left in the quarter. The Eagles would take a timeout to steady the ship but unfortunately the Sharks kept pushing, with a number of easy scores in transition extending their lead to 15 at the end of the period (50-65).
The final quarter would start with another inside score for Deans to push the Sharks lead out to 17. The teams would then trade baskets as the Eagles tried to find a way to reduce the deficit. With five minutes left in the game the hosts would mount an almighty comeback. Scores for Proctor, Bond, Fetherston and Mamuini would see the boys from Newcastle go on a 18-4 run to trail by only 1 with 58 seconds left (77-78). The Sharks would take a timeout and despite a number of good defensive rotations the ball would end up with Deans who made a really tough And1 to push the Sharks lead back out to 4. The Eagles then failed to manufacture an opportunity on offence and fouled in order to stop the clock. Whealing would make his first free throw before getting a put back off his second to increase the Eagles deficit to 7. The home side would then advance the ball, with Fetherston passing to Mamuini for a huge three point shot to see the lead reduce again to just four points. Sadly for the Eagles, the Sharks would retain possession and see the game out, with the final score being 80-86.
The Eagles will feel they did exceptionally well to get back into the game after trailing by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter. Despite suffering another loss in the League, the home side will be able to take a number of positives away from the performance, with a big game away to Cheshire Phoenix to look forward to next week.
Scorers: Mamuini 25, Kande 19, Fetherston 17, Bond 12, Proctor 4, Lewis 3