There is little time for Newcastle Eagles to bask in the glory of their BBL Trophy success, as they continue their pursuit of the league title against Surrey United on Friday.
Celebrations were diluted somewhat by the news that player-coach Fab Flournoy will not play again this season after tearing his achilles in Sunday’s victory against Leicester Riders.
As you might expect at this stage of the season, Flournoy is not the only Eagle playing below 100 per cent fitness right now either.
Trophy Final MVP Charles Smith has been playing with a broken hand in recent weeks while Rahmon Fletcher and Andre Jones have also played through the pain barrier.
All of which adds to the challenge of hosting United on Friday.
“We will prepare in the usual way,” said assistant coach Dave Forrester.
“Some of the guys are banged up and some are playing in the university final on Wednesday so they may get an extra day off.
“Whenever you win a final you enjoy it for as long as you can, but there comes a time when that stops and game preparation for the next weekend starts. That’s the BBL.”
Friday’s return to BBL Championship play will be swiftly followed by a trip to Manchester Giants.
United edged Giants 90-89 in a thriller last weekend with Ant Downing capping a 31-point performance with the game-winner.
Forrester is wary of the talent Jack Majewski has added to his line-up, and despite having won their previous 16 games, there is no danger of any complacency from the league leaders.
Forrester added: “I expect them to play with nothing to lose. They have talented guards and size at the forward position. We won’t take them lightly.”
Eagles stalwart Darius Defoe could also pass 4,000 career points this weekend, currently sitting on 3,990.
Last time they met:
Surrey United 76 Newcastle Eagles 97 (BBL Championship, Surrey Sports Park, 03 Jan 2015)
What they say:
United guard Ant Downing: “Going to Newcastle is going to be tough. They have good home-court advantage and are best team in the league.
“We just have to go up there and play hard and see what happens – it’s basketball in the month of March, anything could happen. Also, we just have to take care of the ball and play team defence to even have a chance.”
Ben Eaves feels landing the first blow will be vital if Manchester Giants are to stage an upset against Newcastle Eagles on Sunday.
Jeff Jones’ side slipped to a 90-89 heart-breaker against Surrey United last time out and could not have wished for a tougher test this weekend, hosting the newly-crowned BBL Trophy champions.
Giants have demonstrated throughout the season that they can live with the BBL’s top teams, but it is in bookending such performances with solid play where Eaves believes they must improve.
“Slow starts have hurt us a little bit recently,” said the influential forward.
“Getting out of the gates aggressive and hitting first should be a priority, particularly on the defensive end. That, and then executing with some composure down the end of games.”
Fab Flournoy’s Eagles showed their ability to perform in crunch time on the big stage on Sunday – despite losing their player-coach for the rest of the season with an achilles tear.
Eaves is under no illusions how difficult it will be for Giants to end their three-game slide by halting the league leaders’ 16-game win streak – but insists these are the type of games players relish.
“It’s going to be a tough game but that’s the kind of game that you want to play,” Eaves added.
“It will be a good challenge for us and there is no reason we shouldn’t be going into that game looking to surprise some people.
“They are a very good team and have consistently shown that this whole season, playing their brand of basketball the whole way, so we need to attack and try to put them on their heels.”
Giants look like the team most likely to gatecrash the current top eight and secure a place in the Play-offs.
But with Leicester Riders, and another meeting with Eagles to come in the six games following Sunday, they may require at least one victory against the one of the top three.
Last time they met:
Newcastle Eagles 115 Manchester Giants 76 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 20 Dec 2014)
What they say:
Eagles assistant coach Dave Forrester: “Manchester have really improved their talent level as the year has gone on, in particular adding [Rob] Marsden and [Devin] Grimes.
“They have players who shoot the ball extremely well from outside and can heat up very quickly. Their home record is excellent.”