‘CAPTAIN Cool’ Andrew Bridge today played down talk that the BBL league title is Newcastle’s for the taking after a near- perfect weekend for the Eagles. But the laid-back skipper did admit last night’s ruthless 82-112 demolition of Cheshire Jets was a return to Fab Flournoy’s famous total team basketball.
‘That was one of the best all-round offensive games we have had as a team this season,’ admitted Bridge. ‘A whole bunch of us hit double figures, and there was no pressure on any one player to score the bulk of our points. That’s where we’ve always had our success in the past and that’s where we will be successful again. It’s when teams don’t know who to defend that we’re at our most dangerous.’
Player-coach Flournoy bounced back from a below-par performance against Worcester to lead all scorers with 20 points against the Jets. And his quartet of first-period three-pointers laid the foundation for a 16-3 lead.
Newcastle led by 16 going into the second quarter and by 21 at the half on their way to a thrashing of TJ Walker’s former club.
Now the Eagles would have to lose at least two more regular season games before nearest rivals Guildford can even think about challenging for the league crown. But that does not look likely to happen with Aussie guard Steve Leven added to Flournoy’s offensive mix.
The shooting guard added 17 points at Chester to his debut tally of 21 and Bridge added: ‘Right now Steve looks like he could be the perfect fit. For him it’s all about trying not to do too much, too soon and just feel his way into a new set-up. He seems like a great guy and he has that Australian mentality where you just never give up.’
‘From what I’ve seen he’s going to be fine here, and I can’t see where all the bad publicity around him has come from. I know players fall out with clubs and clubs fall out with players. And there can be clashes of personalities.
But from where I’m standing, Steve is a real asset to Newcastle, and it will take some time for teams to work out how to deal with him.’
Bridge carried the Eagles through a tricky period last month when injuries took their toll on a roster in need of reinforcements. But the addition of Leven and Sam Attah, coupled with a two-week break to heal a series of knocks, has eased the pressure on the former England star.
And Bridge admitted: ‘Three weeks ago it was tough. Me, Charles Smith and Lynard Stewart were being asked to come up with the bulk of our points every night and that’s difficult. What pleased me most about the win at Cheshire was the fact that everybody was capable of chipping in.’
‘Now our focus is on our trip to Birmingham next weekend, and we’re not looking at anyone else right now. We’ve had a great weekend, results have gone our way and we’re still out in front. But we’re not about to relax.’
Jets: Obazuaye 20, Costantiello 17, Moore 16. Eagles: Flournoy 20, Smith 17, Leven 17.