This weekend saw the U16s Eagles away to Cheshire Phoenix. Travelling with the U18s who were playing after, the boys from Newcastle knew they could win this game if they focused for 40 minutes and showed the fighting spirit of the last couple of games. Cheshire had won the previous contest between the two teams but only by eight points, a margin that ultimately flattered the visitors after the Eagles had fouled late on to try and stop the clock. After a hugely entertaining game at Stanney Oaks Leisure Centre, the team from Newcastle would avenge their previous loss and come out winners 76-73!
At the start of the first, Cheshire would come out of the blocks firing. The home side would score two quick baskets to see them go ahead 4-0. The Eagles wouldn’t panic however and scores for Mamuini, Kande, and Fetherston would put the visitors into the lead with four minutes played. Cheshire would score through Graham, before the Eagles completely took over the quarter, going on a 12-4 run to take a seven point lead (19-12) with a minute left. Cheshire weren’t finished though, with the clock winding down, Graham would pull up from just inside the half court and nail a big three as the buzzer sounded. Despite the late drama, the Eagles would still lead going into the second quarter 19-15.
The second quarter saw Cheshire get a real hold on the game. The first couple of minutes saw both sides struggling to finish, but Cheshire would get the scores back level after three minutes with back-to-back scores from Smith before a strong post move for Siteine put the Nix in front 21-19. Sukys would respond for the Eagles to level the scores before Cheshire went on a 19-10 run to end the quarter and take a nine-point lead into the half.
The third quarter saw the Eagles start like an express train. A lay-up for Fetherston would get the scoreboard ticking before back-to-back scores for Mamuini and Proctor saw the Eagles take a one-point lead. Cheshire would respond, with an inside finish for Graham to go back in front with the scores now at 41-42. The Nix would then increase their lead to seven points, which would stand until the eighth minute when the Eagles would mount a decisive run. A big three from Proctor followed by baskets for Bond, Mamuini and Fetherston would see the visitors go on a 9-4 run to close the quarter out and trail by just two points going into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter was really tense with both teams trying not to make any big mistakes. Cheshire would start by extending their lead to six points after a couple of slack rotations in transition for the Eagles. The visitors would then go on a 7-0 run to retake the lead before Graham hit a highly contested lay-up followed by a massive three to give Cheshire a four point lead 64-68. The Nix would add another basket before Mamuini would make another lay-up and draw the foul; he would miss from the charity stripe but scores for Proctor and Bond would see the Eagles tie the game at 70 all. The Eagles would then be called for a foul with Mansell hitting just one of his free throws before a put back for Cheshire saw them take a three point lead with just 1 minute 15 left. From this point on the Eagles would keep the Nix scoreless.
Two baskets for Mamuini would give the visitors the most slender of leads 74-73. Cheshire would then take a timeout and with 26 seconds left they would get the ball into Graham. The visitors however remained calm and played outstanding defence, eventually forcing a highly contested shot, which rebounded to an Eagle and the ball ended up with Bond who was fouled from behind for an unsportsmanlike. With just 1.3 seconds left, Bond would hit both free throws before the Eagles safely got the ball in and killed the game. Winning 76-73!
After the game, U16s Head Coach Sam Roxborough said, “It was an incredibly tight game all the way through. I’m so proud of all the players for the way they fought right throughout the game and the focus and poise they displayed coming down the stretch. What a game!”
The coaching staff would also like to say a massive thank you to the travelling support and the U18s team who helped push us over the line, you guys were amazing!
The 16s are next in action at home to Mansfield Giants in what is sure to be a very good game, 2pm tip at Newcastle College on Saturday 27th January.
Scorers: Mamuini 21, Kande 19, Fetherston 11, Proctor 11, Bond 10, Hunt 2, Sukys 2.