Newcastle Eagles maintained their perfect start to the BBL Championship and bounced back from cup disappointment with a crushing victory over Surrey Scorchers.
Fab Flournoy’s side shrugged off the agonising one-point defeat to the Cheshire Phoenix last time out to record a blowout 103-80 win at Sport Central on Friday night.
Strong displays from Darius Defoe and top scorer Jaysean Paige saw the Eagles soar clear of their opponents after an evenly contested first half.
Boosted by news earlier in the day of Commonwealth Games call-ups for Defoe, Drew Lasker and Kai Williams, the hosts looked to make a statement from the outset.
The Eagles were quick out of the blocks, with Saah Nimley and Paige finding the net from range to push the home side 10 points clear in minutes.
But the Scorchers responded in kind with three-pointers of their own from Alexander Owumi and Gerald Robinson to claw back the deficit.
Successful free-throws from visiting guard Tony Hicks levelled the contest, and it was the visitors who would go on to claim a narrow advantage from a hard-fought first quarter.
The Eagles early hot streak on offense seemed to desert them, and a rebounded effort from Darryl Palmer ensured the Scorchers led by one after the opening exchange.
The second quarter almost mirrored the first, with the Eagles again opening a strong lead only for the Scorchers to rein them back in.
Forward Williams helped the home side seize control with a powerful block and make from range, and this was followed an emphatic dunk from Defoe.
The center’s commanding presence began to dominate the paint, and he teed-up Jure Gunjina for the basket to push the host’s lead into double figures.
Once again though the visitors produced a strong response, with Robinson finding the net from range and Omotayo Ogedengbe applying the finishing touch to a swift counter.
The second quarter ended with Flournoy’s side ahead by one, with Paige’s three-pointer snatching the lead before the buzzer.
After such a back-and-forth opening half, the Eagles came out after the break clearly determined to stamp their authority on the match.
Defoe continued to wreak havoc in the Scorchers’ defence, and forward Zarko Jukic’s three-pointer helped the hosts assert extend their lead.
The raucous Sports Central crowd did enough to put visiting forward Jordan Williams off from the free-throw line, before back-to-back makes from range from Nimley put the Eagles firmly in control.
The Scorchers wilted in the face of the hosts’ rampaging offense, and within five minutes a basket from Paige pushed the lead past 20.
Surrey began to press in an attempt to disrupt the Eagles’ momentum, but the league leaders continued to fashion opportunities and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The decisive third quarter ended 75-57 in the host’s favour – a position of control Newcastle would end up extending by the game’s end.
Coach Flournoy continued to coax the best from his team on the sidelines, and the Eagles refused to give their visitors a sniff of a comeback.
A three-pointer from Levi Noel briefly lifted the Scorchers, only to be matched by an effort from Williams and followed by another dunk from Defoe.
With the victory all but confirmed, the question soon became whether the free-scoring Defoe and Paige would push the Eagles past the century.
This was confirmed with a lay-up from AJ Basi with less than minute left on the clock, and the final buzzer was met with a roar of applause from the appreciative home support.
Next up for Flournoy’s side is an early opportunity for revenge on the road against the Phoenix on Sunday.
Elsewhere in the BBL on Friday, the Leicester Riders edged out the Sheffield Sharks and the Glasgow Rocks snuck the win at the Worcester Wolves.
The Phoenix followed up their surprise victory at Sport Central with a comfortable victory at Leeds Force.
Our Eagles face Sheffield next Friday night, tickets are available now: