Newcastle Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy has ruled out making panic changes as his team prepare to face basement side Essex Pirates on Friday evening.

The Eagles went out of the BBL Cup after being beaten at Mersey Tigers last week, and survived a scare before sneaking a win against Worthing Thunder in their next game, but Flournoy isn’t pressing the panic button:

“We played okay against Tigers in the first half but after that the wheels fell off” said Flournoy. “Defensively we were poor in the second half. We gave up 66 points on twenty minutes and had no answer for Nate [Reinking] in particular.

“Against Worthing we were lucky. They played a great game and deserved to win the game. The only positive was that we dug it out in the end when Joe [Chapman] made some fantastic hustle plays despite the injury he was carrying.

“The two weeks off has really helped us as it has allowed Trey [Moore] and Joe to get healthy from injuries that affected them and Tigers and Thunder and I am closer to playing again.

“Missing out on the Cup final is disappointing but not unusual. We are nine and five in all competitions despite having only played four games with our full roster. Our only two losses that have not gone to the last shot were against an excellent Mersey team when we were a key player down. It is certainly not a time for us to panic and whilst we are always looking for ways to get better we are not going to make changes simply for the sake of changing especially when I am not yet back on the court.”

Having survived against Thunder, Flournoy is determined that his team won’t take Pirates lightly on Friday evening: “I know that they have yet to win a game but that they are getting closer every time they play.

“Taner [Adu] is clearly key for them as he gives them experience in ball handling and decision making. Adrien Sturt and Dan Briglia are also more settled into Tim’s system than they were when we first played them.”

English shooting guard Adu is ready for the long trip to Newcastle, and believes that his team could spring a surprise in the north east: “They’ve been up and down, and they only beat Worthing by one which should give us confidence as we really should have beaten Thunder ourselves. If we can keep Joe Chapman and Trey quiet we have a good chance of winning”

It will be Pirates’ second visit of the season to Newcastle, and coach Tim Lewis is determined that they will do better than last time when they lost 112-43:

“Obviously we’ve been there once and were very poor. That really wasn’t a reflection of how we can play, and I expect a much better performance, and then we’ll see where that takes us.
“Fab’s done a good job getting them organised, and they’re a well-structured team. Charles Smith always hurts us up there, he’s a seasoned vet and he does a lot for them. Andrew Bridge is also important to them, but they key is they are a solid team.”

Lewis believes that Eagles will again challenge for honours: “They’re had a good run for several years, but maybe some other sides have got into their stride quicker this year. But no one should underestimate them, they a champion team who’ve been around, and Fab will turn thing around.”