The Eagles can put one foot in the BBL Trophy semi-finals with a victory against local opponents Durham Wildcats when the sides meet for the second time in a week this coming Friday night.
Fabulous Flournoy’s team gate-crashed Wildcats’ opening night of BBL basketball by winning 88-66 in front of a packed out Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre crowd last week, and the Eagles player-coach was pleased with the way his side played:
“We played okay against Durham.” He said. “I have to make some allowances for the fact it was the second night of a back to back and we had not played even one game in the previous two and a half weeks. We started out really well before we let our defence slip a little bit in the second quarter. But I was happy the way we closed the game out.”
Despite the size of that win, Flournoy isn’t taking anything for granted when the BBL new-boys visit Sport Central: “We need to play more consistent defence and do a slightly better job of understanding where we have mismatches on offence.
“We obviously knew all about [Ralph] Bucci, but he was still able to make plays like the veteran that he is. We had not seen much film of Fred Hinnenkamp before the game and he kind of crept up on us and made some tough outside shots.”
Flournoy rejects any notion that playing the same team twice in such a short period of time brings problems: “At this stage it really is not about the team that you play against, it’s all about yourselves. It’s about us getting better and understanding each other. So the identity of the opponents does not affect the way I coach at all.”
That win against Wildcats came a day after Eagles had beaten old rivals Glasgow Rocks 85-63, and Flournoy was delighted with the win: “We put a lot of effort into the game against the Rocks, right up to the final seconds. Defensively we accomplished most of what we set out to do, though offensively we turned the ball over too much.
“I was happy for Joe Chapman. To have a solid game on his first game back on the floor where he suffered his injury was big for him. Andy [Thompson] also really stepped up and was able to play through some early foul trouble to have a really effective game.”
Wildcats’ coach Dave Elderkin expects another tough game for his side: “It was a tough game for us on Saturday,” admitted Elderkin, “Mario Flaherty’s international clearance didn’t come though in time and we’re without Paul Elderkin. They were really, really tough, but we didn’t play well in the first half. We improved in the second half, and Liam O’Mahoney did well for us, but the biggest surprise was how Sam Chambers played. He’s been out for a year with heart and stomach problems, but that’s cleared up now. He got his chance because we were without Mario and some of the starters got in foul trouble, and he did a really good job.
“If there had been an MVP award, it would have gone to Darius Defoe as he really did a number on us inside. I saw them on Friday night, and Andrew Thomson was their best player, but Darius really came to play against us.”