A bullish Fab Flournoy was today reflecting on coming within a whisker of being dumped out of the BBL Trophy after his Newcastle Eagles side crashed 100-78 to Scottish Rocks in Glasgow.
Just a week after the Cup Final loss, a defeat would have been a crushing psychological blow for the New Yorker who was without recent signing Bryan Defares after he was unexpectedly released from his contract after only a few weeks with the club.
Flournoy had taken his team to Scotland knowing anything better than a 24-point defeat would see them progress to the semi-finals of the competition, having beaten the Rocks in the first group game. In an agonising game for both sets of fans, the Rocks came incredibly close to an astonishing win when, with just 27 seconds remaining, they were up 100-76 and set to pull off an astonishing victory.
However, Charles Smith, who left the Rocks for their biggest rivals in contentious circumstances in 2005, kept his cool from the free-throw line to see the Eagles through, although even then, in the dying seconds, Rob Yanders still had a chance to do it for the hosts only to lose the ball.
Earlier in the game there had been little to separate the teams, although the Rocks did lead 43-38 at the break before that amazing second half of the game. It was a contest that barely allowed Fab Flournoy to pause for breath, and he insisted that, although relieved after squeezing through, his side deserved their place in the semi-finals.
‘We found ourselves in one really tough situation,’ he said. ‘But we dug ourselves out and got the big play at the end of the game when we came up with the defensive stop we needed to progress. It isn’t easy going into a game knowing that you can afford to lose, and when you take into account our injuries, Bryan (Defares) leaving over the weekend, and the fact that both myself and Bridgey (Andrew Bridge) fouled out of the game, it was never ideal.’
‘They played really well and they have a huge advantage on their home court as they are so strong at Braehead.
The match officials also made so many questionable calls and that helped shift the momentum towards the Rocks at a crucial time, and we were always up against it.’
‘We couldn’t adjust and they made so many really tough shots that it went down to the wire but we did what we needed to do. I know it is another loss but it does feel like we got the win and we did because we are in the semi-finals and if we iron out the inconsistencies dogging us then we can progress further.’
‘We are a great team one game and then a below-par team in the next game. After this I think our next game which will be the semi-final will see us producing one of our better performances.’
The Eagles will find out who they will face in the semi-finals of the competition today, due to be held in Sheffield a week on Saturday, with players and fans hoping to face Worcester Wolves and get payback for their recent damaging league loss.
Rocks : Yanders 26, Davis 17, Hampton 17.
Newcastle : Smith 17, Babalola 13, Flournoy 11.