Newcastle Eagles fly south today to continue the defence of the BBL Trophy they won last season in a dramatic 96 – 94 overtime victory against Team Solent Kestrels in March 2020.
Their quarter final tie takes them in to the den of London Lions at the 2012 Olympic Copperbox Arena.
It’s going to be a tall order for an Eagles side still likely to be without star forward Justin Gordon who is nursing an ankle injury. A late game-day will be taken on the athletic USA player that has been a big part in Newcastle’s season so far.
Indeed, Gordon was the MVP of this season’s BBL Cup Final when the Eagles defeated the Lions by 84 – 77 at Leicester’s Morningside Arena. Eagles Captain Rahmon Fletcher top scored for his team in that final with 21 points and will be the man Head Coach Ian MacLeod will look to guide his men into another semi-final.
Fletcher knows it will be a tough ask for him and his team mates tonight as he assessed the loss at home to Sheffield Sharks last Friday night. That was the Eagles third loss in four games over a period of seven days. A brutal schedule which doesn’t ease at all with the clash at Lions.
“I think we had it on Friday. It was one of those games where we had it and then just lost it in that third quarter. At the start of the third quarter both teams were getting stops and we had chances in transition but we just couldn’t get them to drop.”
“It’s kind of been a theme we’ve been fighting with in the second half of the season. Like we’ll have a 20-point lead and let them come back and overall, it’s a drop back from the way we’ve been playing. But there have been some good things in there as well.”
“We’ve got bounce straight back as tonight’s game in London will be tough. When you get around this time of the season, February/March, you play teams many, many times and we’ve played Sheffield six times so far including the BBL Cup Group of Death.”
“They know us inside out and we haven’t changed throughout those six games although we had Justin out tonight it’s not like we’ve changed the line-up so they know us very well. They have changed things bringing in Jeremy Hemsley and Jordon Ratinho and moving Mike Tuck to the starting five.”
“So, they’ve changed things where we’ve been playing well and haven’t needed to change things but they know us as do Leicester and London and all the top teams. We played Sheffield last week and we kind of dug ourselves into a hole we couldn’t get out of which affected us.”
“We can’t have that kind of feeling. I think we’ve got a good group of guys and we’ll bounce back mentally and physically just like we did in the games at Bristol and Leicester.
The one thing in Newcastle’s favour is that they have been to London this season and won on the Lions home court so they are aware of the task in front of them.
“We’re probably, not definitely, going to be without Justin and it’s one of those things that you have to push back and make sure you look after the player. You don’t want to rush him back if he’s not ready and risk losing him for a longer period.”
“London lost to Cheshire on Friday night which was a surprise so you know they’re going to want to come back stronger and it’s the Trophy and we beat them in The Cup when they felt they were understrength so this is an isolation game.”
“We have to go to be ready to play. We’ve got to be focused; we’ve got to be locked in which I’m sure we will be. 100% we have a chance that’s the way we approach it. We can treat it as a one-off game with a chance to get to another semi-final and then a final.”
“We have to treat it that way. These games are coming thick and fast and we’re not going to get a break until April so we simply have to lock in and be ready.”
Having now lost five games in the Championship Newcastle are not quite out of that race but they most definitely are still in the Trophy race and will hope to still be in it after tonight’s game.
Fans can watch live on the BBL Player with tip-off at 6pm and coverage starting from 5:50pm.