Newcastle Eagles will look to continue their fine BBL Championship form when they host Guildford Heat on Friday evening.
The Eagles have won their last ten Championship games to move up to third in the table with an 11-3 record, but will aim to bounce back after their BBL Trophy exit at the hands of Mersey Tigers.
Newcastle player-coach Fab Flournoy admitted to being frustrated by that loss against Mersey: “The games against the Tigers were extremely closely contested. It really was the first time we had played them where both teams had everyone available and on the court.
“Being up 10 in the third quarter of each game it was frustrating not to be able to close the games out and whilst I thought a lopsided fourth quarter foul count hurt us in the first leg I have to personally take responsibility for our failure to close out the home game as I made a couple of bad decisions at key times.”
Heat go into the game having dropped down to seventh place with a 9-8 record as an injury to point guard David Schneider has seen them lose three straight Championship games. Despite that, Flournoy isn’t taking them lightly: “Heat are a team which is dealing with its own adversity at the moment, particularly as they are having to work out how to play without their starting point guard.
“They have a strong UK core and two of the biggest guys in the league in James Porter and Tomas Janusauskas. Martelle McLemore has stepped up for them recently with Schneider being unavailable. We defended well against them last time and followed the scouting report on all of their players. Offensively we weren’t great but we did enough defensively to get the job done.
With Heat having gone down 98-70 when they hosted Eagles a month ago, coach Creon Raftopoulos knows his side face a tough game in the north east: “The Eagles are back to winning ways and I’m sure they will be even be more focused on winning the Championship after being knocked out in the Trophy Semi Final. They play with a fast, strong ,aggressive attitude which have to match to stand a chance of beating them on their home floor.
“Trey Moore, Joe Chapman and Charles Smith are shooting the three-ball well and so controlling them on the perimeter will be key.
“We came out flat against them last game but I credit Fab for his defensive rotations and help-side defence. If we are to compete with them we have to do abetter job rebounding and boxing out. ”
That loss against Mersey Tigers last Friday ended a run of six straight appearances in the BBL Trophy final, but Flournoy was philosophical about that record ending: I don’t really see it as continuing or losing a record as for me every season is a new one, no-one gives you a trophy simply because you have won thirteen in the past. There are a lot of positives for me to look at though, over the course of two games Darius Defoe demonstrated to me that he has become the best British inside player in the league and one of the best overall and the fact that we came so close to winning despite shooting only 4/23 from the three-point line and having 24 turnovers indicates that our defence is getting close to where we need it to be for the league run in.”