Australian sensation Steve Leven made his Newcastle Eagles debut and helped Fab Flournoy’s men hammer Worcester Wolves on home turf, writes DAN WARBURTON.
Prior to the Eagles’ first game in two weeks, Leven had expressed his desire to please his new employers. And those inside the Metro Radio Arena were treated to an outstanding second-period display by the new signing, as he hit 19 points in 10 minutes.
The clash marked the first game of the Eagles’ BBL Championship run-in as Flournoy went toe-to-toe with old foe Skouson Harker. But those expecting fireworks were disappointed as the home side coasted to an easy victory.
Bridge hit a massive three-point shot to open his account before Wolves’ forward Anthony Paez replied to level the scores in the opening moments.
But the Eagles soon settled into their strides and a combination of baskets from Clemson graduate Olu Babalola and 6ft 8ins forward Lynard Stewart gave the home side an early advantage. Jeremy Hyatt entered the fray with an outstanding three-point effort to put a 13-point gap between the two outfits, before Darius Defoe sank an easy shot from inside the arc to make it 17.
Stewart put even more daylight between Flournoy’s roster and Harker’s men as he hit two shots from the line, and Flournoy gave made the advantage 18-points. But blunders from Flournoy gave the visitors hope as they clambered into a 8-4 tear and a two-point shot from Douaine Anderson trimmed the lead to just 10 points at the end of the first quarter.
With only two minutes gone of the second period, Leven made his way into the game and it took him only a matter of seconds to make an impact. The big Australian hit seven points from nine as he tore a whole through the Wolves’ defence.
Leven secured five threes and two twos en route to bagging a second-quarter tally of 19 points – and a game-high score of 24. But it was Darius Defoe who took the baton in the third quarter. The British forward rained 11 points down on the miserable Wolves to end any hopes of a fightback.
Paez spearheaded the Wolves attack in the desperate hope of salvaging some pride, but he could only muster seven points. The Eagles ended the clash with youngsters Will Spragg, Aaron Nielsen and Brian McCotter on the court. And the Wolves managed to muscle their way back to within touching distance.
Chuck Evans emerged as the visitors’ most potent threat as he tucked away four points in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Defoe and Flournoy combined to keep the Wolves’ threat at bay, but the lead was trimmed to 16 points when Ivan Brosko hit the basket from inside the arc.
Player-coach Harker hit back-to-back twos to make sure his side ended the contest just 12 points adrift, but the visitors lost their battle with the Eagles – and with the clock – as Flournoy’s men closed out the contest.
There was further celebration for the Eagles as their nearest rivals in the BBL title race before tip-off – Milton Keynes Lions and Guilford Heat – were both beaten. Everton Tigers saw off the Heat 95-90 while the Lions were done for by Scottish Rocks 89-67.
TOP SCORERS – Eagles: Leven 24, Defoe 18, Stewart 13. Wolves: Paez 19, Harker 16, Brosko 15.