NEWCASTLE Eagles took a giant step towards landing the BBL league championship after ripping Plymouth Raiders to shreds in a sensational 94- 78 win last night. It was a monumental performance by Fab Flournoy and his team as they humiliated the Raiders, not only delivering a killer blow to their title dreams but hammering down the coffin lid in truly ruthless fashion.
While Lynard Stewart landed an impressive double-double and the resurgent Darius Defoe missed out the same accolade by just one rebound, it was Olu Babalola who set the tone with a magnificent line of 21 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in an all-action display.
Indeed the Londoner showed just how focused he is on a pivotal weekend after turning his attentions to the Guildford Heat game tomorrow within seconds of the game ending. He said: ‘This was all about energy. We desperately need to take that momentum we built up into the Guildford game because it is payback time for them.’
‘We have the biggest reason of all to motivate ourselves to beat Guildford after losing twice to them this season and the disappointment of the Trophy Final loss.’
The hosts shaded the early stages, establishing a 15-8 lead, although Plymouth narrowed to 21-19 by the end of the opening quarter. The Eagles exploded into life, producing their best six or seven minutes of the entire season.
A flurry of three-pointers set Flournoy’s men on their way during a devastating 17-0 run that left the Raiders shell-shocked at 46-24.
The Eagles’ unstoppable offensive tide swamped the visitors. Babalola was in irresistible mood, and he combined with Steve Leven to literally make a mockery of Plymouth’s second-placed status as BBL title contenders.
For Babalola threw up an outrageous pass to Leven high above the basket and, much to the delight of the huge Arena crowd, Leven completed a sensational tip-dunk to take the hosts into a 50-27 lead at the break.
After a brief Eagles drought, normal service was resumed in the third period with Bensham youngster Wil Spragg getting straight onto the score sheet.
At 71-39 it was seriously embarrassing for Raiders’ Geordie coach Gary Stronach and, much to his relief, his team racked up 35 points in the final quarter to give the final scoreline a touch of respectability.
NEWCASTLE: Babalola 21, Stewart 20, Leven 18.
PLYMOUTH: Durham 15, Moore 13, Beasley 11.