NEWCASTLE Eagles assistant coach Billy Spragg has dismissed the notion of the BBL title chase being a two-horse race with Guildford Heat after another weekend win double. The Eagles tightened their grip on top spot with
a hard-fought 80-73 success at London Capital to maintain their four- point cushion over the Heat.
While Plymouth have moved into second place, they have seven defeats leading many to believe it is now a straight two-way fight.
‘I suppose it does look like that at the moment but there is a bunch of games coming up when anything can happen and it would be foolish to rule out other teams,’ explained Spragg. ‘We also have to play each other a few times and that means teams can quickly creep up on you. We are just happy to have put ourselves in a really strong position.’
‘It is important that we keep our momentum and intensity going and we have Milton Keynes in our next league
game on Friday, so we want to make a statement after last month’s Cup Final defeat.’
The Eagles were left reeling after going into the locker room 51-39 behind against the struggling London outfit, but after cranking up the defensive pressure, the title pace-setters held the hosts to just 21 points in the second half.
Lynard Stewart was in terrific form with 25 points, while Darius Defoe, who is now beginning to find his form after an inconsistent campaign to date, recorded 17 points off the bench.
A 12-3 surge by Newcastle early in the second half tied the game at 57-57 and once they took the lead at 60-61 there was no looking back, with Spragg admitting it was a tricky fixture.
‘We struggled in the Capital game for various reasons but mainly because of a lack of personnel due to injuries and some early foul trouble. We didn’t have Charles fully fit, while Steve Leven picked up an ankle injury, and this, combined with some poor defence early on, made life difficult for us. However, you have to give them a lot of credit. They are an athletic team and they gave us a real game.’
Despite Sunday’s big Trophy Final down in Plymouth against Guildford, Spragg will be working alongside Fab Flournoy on preparing for the Milton Keynes league game just 48 hours earlier. And while many are again criticising the ludicrous game schedule, Spragg isn’t one of them.
‘It is hard not to look past the Lions because a final is a big thing for us, it always is. Having said that, we have experience of playing a game on the eve of such a big occasion. There is no point worrying about another double-header of this significance because we have had experience of it many times in the past – we are lucky to have that kind of experience.’
‘It’s good to be in a position of having to play in another final, whether we have to play a league game beforehand or not – that is what is most important,’ he added.