Newcastle Eagles 79 Scottish Rocks 75

DARIUS DEFOE has spoken of the relief that he and the rest of the Eagles players were feeling last night after completing a nail-biting 79-75 win over Scottish Rocks. Certainly in the context of the title race and taking into account the Trophy Final loss and the serious injury to top scorer Charles Smith, this was a monumental victory for Flournoy and his players.

It wasn’t pretty, but when the chips were down and the question was asked, the Eagles players responded, dug deep and came up trumps, with some big plays in the final moments of the game to answer their critics in emphatic fashion.

With a fixture against bottom club Birmingham Panthers in Walsall tonight, it could easily be another win-double for the league leaders, although Defoe was adamant that there won’t be any complacency.

‘This was all about getting the win and to bounce back from the disappointment of what happened last Sunday,’ he said. ‘It is always going to feel good to get any win, but if it is close and you lost your previous game then it feels even more sweet – especially when we missed out on a trophy.’

‘We are relieved to come out on top and it gives us a chance to go to Birmingham to get a second win of the weekend. People will be looking at the score from the last time that we played the Panthers and when we won by 30 or 40 points.’

‘That doesn’t mean we will be taking them lightly because we just don’t approach games in that way. We go out to play hard in every game because that is what Fab always demands from us. It is important we remain at the top of the league and that puts pressure on the clubs trying to chase us down.’

Defoe played a nice cameo with nine points and six rebounds off the bench, but the star was again Lynard Stewart, who just missed out on a double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds to go with three stunning blocks.

There was very little in a pedestrian and frankly uninspiring first half, with the Eagles edging it 41-38 thanks mainly to the work of Stewart and also Jeremy Hyatt, who nailed a couple of three-pointers.

Moritz Wohlers was a thorn in the side of the Eagles with 13 points at the break and, after both sides were tied at 57-57 going into the final quarter, the game began to find some real tempo and soon had fans biting their nails.

Trailing 69-61, the game looked to be ebbing away from the hosts, but Stewart, a three from captain Andrew Bridge and a stunning alley-oop dunk by Aussie guard Steve Leven tied the game again.

Going into the final minutes it was 75-75 before the Eagles won the game from the free-throw line and, most significantly, thanks to a great offensive rebound by Bridge and a spectacular defensive block by the irrepressible Stewart.

Newcastle Eagles: Stewart 20, Flournoy 14, Hyatt 13.
Scottish Rocks: Wohlers 17, Hampton 16, Murray 13.