The first big BBL clash of the season between the countries top two sides went the way of the visitors as Newcastle Eagles took the spoils in Leicester tonight. It was Leicester’s first defeat of the season and means the two sides now have identical 3 – 1 positive records in the BBL Cup North Group.
The Eagles win was fashioned by their dominant rebounding presence as they pounded away on the boards winning that battle 51 – 34 including a massive 21 offensive rebounds. Many of those were taken by Big John Mitchell who despite fouling out was again in aggressive energetic mode for Newcastle.
The Eagles were also superbly led by Captain Rahmon Fletcher who benefited from having his new backcourt partner in Rodney Glasgow in tow as the new Eagles guard made his competitive debut. Glasgow’s presence was effective and meant Newcastle barely missed the injured Mike Morsell.
In an explosive first quarter it was the Eagles little and large show that led the way. Fletcher had his side 6 – 1 up inside the first minute. He tripled the first play of the game and then an and-1 doubled his and his side’s score.
From then on, the Eagles dominated the boards with Mitchell bouncing around in his energetic style to great effect. That freed up Darius Defoe to also join in the fun as the Eagles scored almost at will.
The hometown Riders though were shooting the ball well inside the arc and it was this accuracy that kept them in the contest. Apart from one occasion when the score was 12 – 12, the Eagles led the entire first quarter although they couldn’t quite shake Leicester off.
The first ten minutes saw Newcastle lead 28 – 24 as we entered the second quarter. Once again, the visitor’s superiority on the glass showed and they began to take control of the game. An 11 – 5 opening to the period saw them establish a double-digit lead at 39 – 29.
They increased that to eleven at one stage before another dogged Riders fightback. However, with Fletcher and Glasgow dominating they managed to maintain a double-figure gap as the teams went to the locker room 57 – 47 ahead.
Leicester are renowned across the league for their ability to come back from seemingly impossible deficits so Newcastle knew they had to keep the pressure on as the teams came out for the second half.
That’s exactly what they did. Fletcher and Glasgow hit back-to-back triples and then Fletcher took over netting 14 personal in the third enabling his side to establish an 84 – 69 lead with the final ten minutes to play.
Another great contribution from the bench came from Sade Aded Hussein who spelled Defoe and Mitchell superbly whilst helping himself to his first double-digit effort for his new side. Early in the final stanza he helped his side to a nineteen-point lead at 89 – 70 and it appeared Newcastle were cruising.
Not quite. Riders playing with real pride and determination came storming back and a 14 – 3 run as time began to run out saw them close within eight points before Fletcher stepped up again was fouled and knocked down two free-throws inside the last minute to ice the win.
A superb night for Coach Ian MacLeod and his men at the home of the Champions and one that should put them in good heart for their next encounter which is also on the road at Cheshire this Sunday.