It was a tough night on Friday for Esh Group Eagles Newcastle as their run of six consecutive home wins at the Eagles Community Arena came to an end with a 76 – 72 reverse against Sheffield Sharks.
The loss meant they were unable to lock-in 3rd place in this season’s BBL Championship campaign.
Perhaps though the result had more positives than it appears on paper. The Eagles went in to the game without either of their power forwards Victor Moses and Darius Defoe who average over 31 points per game between them. They then lost shooting guard Jeremy Smith to a first-half injury.
That they almost overcame this adversity speaks volumes of the character and determination of this current squad as was summed up by veteran guard Drew Lasker after the final buzzer sounded.
“It was a really, really tough game. Going in there with a couple of men down and then suffering some injuries during the game. But that’s all part of sports and its next man up and there are no excuses. We kind of picked up at the end but just ran out of time.”
Lasker himself did not play much down the stretch as the Eagles mounted a ferocious comeback from being fifteen points down to get within two with seconds remaining before a last gasp effort to force overtime saw them come up short.
However, Lasker was quick to allay fears that he had joined the ranks of Newcastle’s walking wounded.
“I was fine, I was fine. Jeremy did pick up an injury which I’m not sure what it was but I was ok. That team that was out there in the fourth quarter they were rolling so as long as nobody needed a sub it was one of those momentum kind of things and it nearly worked for us.”
The Eagles still need one more win to guarantee them a top three finish in The League for the 15th consecutive season and next up have bottom of the table Surrey Scorchers at The ECA next Friday night. Crucially that seven-day stretch may give them time to recover.
“We need every single second of that week. The main goal now is just getting bodies healthy going in to the Play-Offs. We’ve got to make sure we nurse our injuries, get to the physios and do whatever we can to be ready for the end of the month.”
“If you don’t win the league you don’t really get anything for second or third. It’s nice to say you finished runners-up but it doesn’t mean anything if you go out in the first round of the Play-Offs. There’s still that trophy up for grabs and that’s our focus right now and we’ve just got to get healthy.”
There’s no doubt that a fully-fit and healthy Eagles squad is a match for anyone in The BBL and losing by a mere four points to a Sheffield side that currently sit 4th in the table is proof of that.
“I don’t know another team in the league that can be essentially three starters down and still push a top five team in the league to four points. It says a lot about the group we have and the next man up mentality and just going out there and doing what we do.”
It’s that kind of can-do attitude from Lasker and his team-mates that make Newcastle a good bet for Play-Off glory if they can get all their components in working order and get back in to the flowing rhythm that makes the such a tough side to play.