Newcastle Eagles’ skipper Andrew Bridge believes the players have everything to prove on Saturday when they bid to reach the BBL Cup final. The Tynesiders will go into their semi-final against the Scottish Rocks with both Bridge and player-coach Fab Flournoy demanding improvements – despite a weekend win double that saw them return to the top of the table.
Having followed up Friday’s victory against Leicester with a 84-77 success at London Capital, Bridge echoed the sentiments of a dissatisfied Flournoy after the Leicester game with a candid assessment of Saturday’s display.
He said: ‘We played better against Capital and looked solid, but we just cannot afford to continue with our lax attitude towards defence.’
‘The positive is that in this particular game it was like flicking a light switch. Just when we needed to, it was suddenly there and that stifling defence won the game for us. The problem is, against the top teams and in the big games, we just cannot leave it late any more.’
Bridge added: “People’s attitudes need to change right throughout the team. They need to get focused. I include myself in that because it is taking for some of us to get annoyed in a game or to feel aggrieved about something before we get fired up.’
‘I cannot put my finger on why we cannot seem to do it from the start of games, but if we want to progress to the final we need to change that pretty quickly. It is a huge week for us ahead of the Rocks game and we have everything to prove in terms of our form of late. The Rocks beat us by 20 points a week ago and they also won last year’s Cup semi-final by 25 points against us.’
The Eagles left it late against Capital, squandering a 14-point lead to allow the Londoners back into the game and the hosts even took a shock final-quarter lead at 69-67. It was only then the Eagles were truly stirred into defensive mode and they eased to victory with an impressive 12-0 burst, a win which, according to Bridge, could prove to be hugely important.
He said: ‘Although thoughts are now turning to the semi-final, these two league wins could be very important for us. We were comfortable at half-time with a 10-point lead, but then had a really bad patch for five or six minutes when we missed a lot of shots and made poor decisions. It was only when we stepped up defensively that we pulled away.’
‘I felt we were always going to win but, with us still not playing to our full potential, it is vital we keep getting results until we hit top gear.’