BBL Play-off Semi-final First Leg
Everton Tigers 95 – 79 Newcastle Eagles
Tonight on a run of 23 consecutive wins, the Eagles travelled to the Greenback Academy, Liverpool to play Everton Tigers, who were themselves on a mini run of 5 victories. Something had to give!!!
The Eagles last tasted defeat to Worthing Thunder in January, and since then had been in commanding form since then, including 3 victories over the Tigers, the most recent being the comprehensive league victory away, 77 – 91. The Tigers had beaten the Cheshire Jets, twice, the Glasgow Rocks and the BBL’s basement clubs, PAWS London Capitol and Essex Pirates.
In response to the two sides run of form, Tony Garbelotto, Tigers head coach and ex head coach of the Eagles, stated that ‘Either they are going to have a fantastic end to the season, or we are going to upset them, one way or another. It is ironic that yet again, we both have to get through each other to get to the final, we are going to have to play at an extremely high level in order to beat them’. With ex Eagles Trey Moore and Ola Babaloa in the side, that was entirely possible.
However Fab Flourney, of the Eagles, was more concerned with the hope of clinging onto the three trophies from last year, saying, ‘I want the guys to go on and do it in the play-offs as they have proved themselves to be a great team’.
What ever happened this was game one of what was sure to be a titanic struggle to reach the final and so to the action.
The early stages of the first period were cagey with the scores being tied at 7 each with 6m26s left in the first period. However the Tigers had pulled out a 3 point gap 13 – 10 when the Eagles called time out with 5m17s left in the first. This margin continued till the end of the first quarter, with the Tigers being up 26 – 23.
However after 2 minutes of the second quarter the tigers had stretched their lead to 5, 32 – 27, but had Thompson on 2 fouls, so that would be his time for some extended rest on the bench. The quarter continued until an Eagles time out with 6m14s left and the score showed the Eagles down 38 – 29. The Eagles were struggling to score with their shots not dropping and the rebounds going with the Tigers. The Tigers were fully deserving of their lead, being the better all-round team at this point. After another 4 minutes of the half, in which the Eagles had slightly the better time of it, reducing the deficit by 2, 42 – 35, 2m06s remained in the half. The remaining 2 minutes, again, was imprecise basketball, with the Tigers marginally shading it 4 points to 3, to go into the locker room ahead 46 – 38.
The Tigers were more deserving of the lead as they had turned up and tried to play some ‘ball, while the Eagles were let down by poor passes, rushing the offence in the paint, and not getting the calls from the referees. All in all the Newcastle dressing room would be the more animated as Fab demands more from his players. It is only 8 points and that is not much if our 3 point game got going. A lot was going to depend on our 3 point threats, in Joe, Reggie, Charles as well as Bridgey (probably moaning to the ref) and Drew being found in the open. We would also, need the big men to crash the boards, increasing our scoring rate as well as slowing the Tigers offence.
With 7m 38s left in the third, there seems to have been no change in the game as the Tigers have extended their lead by a point to, 53 – 42. Over the next 4 minutes the Tigers started to apply pressure and succeeded in drawing away 62 – 49. This lead was beginning to look commanding as the Tigers were the better side in the contest. With 1m33s left in the third the Tigers have made their break and have extended their lead to 20 points, 70 – 50. This looked like being decisive as the Eagles looked dead on their feet. Fatigue getting to the defending Champions. The third quarter ended with the Eagles pulling 5 points back to trail 72 – 57. This was slightly better, but the Eagles seemed to have no offensive or defensive patterns running. The DVD of the games would not make pretty viewing to Fab on the run home.
The final quarter begins, and the Eagles have to play smart basketball, because they are only approaching half time in the contest, with another 40 minutes scheduled for Saturday 1st May tip-off is at 7.30pm (tickets all at £4.50 with free arena car parking)
With 6m38s of the game left the Tigers call a time out as their lead has increased to 16 points, 79 -63. Now is the time for the character of the Eagles to show out and not lose this game by more than single digits. An Eagles time out, with 4m39s left in the game, hopes to stop the dreadful slide the Eagles have suffered, with the Tigers lead increasing to 25 points, 90 – 69. The Eagles had better be careful or they could lose this match here and send the Tigers to Birmingham. It is now all about pride in the shirt and Fab has called a time out to demand it! Trey is killing the Eagles with a hot hand and is scoring freely from where-ever, even downtown; no team can combat that sort of play
The time out works and the Eagles score 6 to the Tiger’s 3 to spark a mini revival. Tigers lead 93 – 71, with 3 minutes left. The trend continues as the quarter plays itself out and the game finishes 95 – 79 in favour of the Tigers.
They were good value for the win, but surely the Eagles cannot be this poor again. The rematch should be a thriller!!!
Make sure you are there, tickets £4.50, with free parking. Come along and roar loudly so that the Tigers quake and run home to Liverpool, it is only 16 points. The Eagles need your support for the whole season depends on the next 40 minutes of basketball.