The Eagles Academy under 16s first away trip of the season ended with a 24-point loss Saturday, the Eagles struggled with Birmingham’s up-tempo style and athleticism throughout the game but proved often to be an easy equal of the Rockets – one of the favourites to go to the Final Four – throughout when the game was in the half court.
The first quarter started with the Rockets racing out to a lead thanks to their press and athletic advantage – sprinting out to a 10-point lead after 6 minutes. However; after some adjustments the Eagles fought back in the last four minutes to begin breaking the press causing the Rockets to relax their pressure, however despite the changes the Eagles missed a few opportunities to finish around the rim leading to the quarter ending 16-9 in favour of the hosts.
In the second the Eagles once again dropped behind the Rockets early on as they struggled to match the intensity of the Rockets out of the quarter break. This time falling behind by as many as 16 mid-way through the quarter before some sharp defending by Xie, Sloan and Hansom led to multiple turnovers for the Rockets and the Eagles once again jumped back in to the contest drawing within ten by the half-time break. The Eagles were led in scoring at half-time by 7 points from vice-captain Sloan and 6 points from captain Jerrard whereas on the Rockets side the scoring was led by 12 points – from a name many basketball fans will recognise – Olajuwon and 10 points from Abushego. At the half the Eagles trailed 36-26.
The third quarter began with the Eagles on a tear as they drew to within four points of the Rockets through tough defence forcing multiple turnovers and easy baskets at the other end for Xie and Sloan as they crashed passing lanes in a much more aggressive style. However, after a quick time-out by Birmingham coach Bradshaw the Rockets took off with Birmingham’s stars Abushego, Olajuwon and captain Bogle dominating the third scoring 6, 8 and 10 points respectively and creating havoc by again tightening the screw on their vaunted press. This quarter saw the game effectively put to bed as the Rockets led by 21 points entering the final frame. One fun note for Newcastle in the quarter was Eagles Academy big-man Hunt scoring a basket – with time expiring on the shot clock – using the patented Dream Shake style post-moves used by NBA legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon which brought a smile to the face of the legend himself who was sitting courtside for the game.
The fourth quarter began with Eagles continuing their struggles with turning over the basketball as they committed four turnovers in the first two minutes of the period. The Eagles however didn’t let their heads drop and continued to keep up the aggressive defensive and offensive play that defined this well-fought game. Offensively the game finished with some very impressive play from Leperrier – who struggled with foul trouble and wasn’t able to make his customary impact – and Sheeran who both scored 7 points in the closing quarter. This included a soaring dunk by Leperrier after jumping in to the passing lane and securing an impressive steal, drawing cheers from both home and away fans. This was almost matched by Sheeran notching an impressive 6 blocks on the defensive end in the final frame. Despite the 24-point loss coaches Sayers and Hawman admitted there were certainly some positives to take away from the game for the fledgling Eagles.
Top Scorers Eagles: 1. Sloan (17) 2. Sheeran (11) 3. Leperrier (9)