Esh Group Eagles Newcastle will move in to the brand-new Eagles Community Arena next Friday night in great form after a securing a second successive road win in the BBL Championship to move up to 3rd place in the table.
What a win it was too, ironically against the same opposition who will be the first visitors to the new arena, Plymouth Raiders, as the Eagles held off a determined fourth quarter comeback from the hosts to take another vital win in the Championship race.
After winning down in Leicester in their last game of 2018, Fab Flournoy’s side were determined to follow that up in the first game of 2019 and a superb all-round team performance enabled them to do just that.
Newcastle had seven players in double figures and spread their scoring nicely across the roster to show they are still very much a force to be reckoned with. Darius Defoe adding 11 rebounds for a superb double-double and Rahmon Fletcher 9 assists to fall one short of his own double-double.
Once again, the key to their win apart from the unselfish scoring was their defence as until a final quarter explosion from the Raiders, they had stood firm to prise the opportunity to take the win.
Even that final burst from the home side was matched by the visitors in a terrific final period that saw the Eagles finish with eight unanswered points to thwart the Raiders comeback push and set-up what should be a memorable return fixture with Plymouth next Friday night.
Raiders started the better and went 4 – 0 up early. Little were they to know that would be their biggest lead of the night. Newcastle hit back with Victor Moses getting on the board and Kai Williams netting a triple to give his side the lead.
After that it was a great battle with Moses’ two free-throws edging the visitors in front 18 – 17 after the first quarter. Fletcher dropped a 3-ball to start the second and the Eagles were just edging a really tough encounter. Jeremy Smith’s “And-1” gave Newcastle a five-point advantage at one stage.
But the Raiders who had gone through December unbeaten culminating in Coach Paul James winning the Coach of the Month award and Donte Nicholas the Player of the Month showed why as they fought back and cut the gap leading Newcastle to take a 39 – 38 lead in to the locker room.
The third was where Newcastle made their move. Moses continued his fine form inside and Defoe supported him well as the Eagles began to take charge and close down the Raiders offence. The rest of the side stepped up to help and brothers Jamal and Kai Williams both hit triples to give Eagles a 60 – 48 advantage.
Raiders Josh Wilcher netted the last basket of the third period and in to the final ten minutes the visitors led by 10 at 62 – 52. They seemed as if they were in the form to withstand Plymouth’s pressure as the home side showed signs of a revival.
Urged on by a partisan home support the players responded and the ball began to drop as the swept the Eagles aside with a 15 – 5 run that took them in to a two-point lead at 81 – 79. But Newcastle weren’t finished and Smith and Defoe sparked a 12 – 2 finish to the game capped by a Kyle Williams triple that saw the visitor’s home after 40 minutes of pulsating basketball.
Now all eyes turn to Scotswood Road and the dawning of a new era of Eagles Basketball as they turn a new page in their history with the visit of Plymouth this coming Friday.