Manchester Giants1927242191Win

The inconsistency that the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles have shown most of the season came back to haunt them in Manchester on Saturday night. After a Dr. Jekyll performance against Cheshire at home on Friday, Mr Hyde returned on Saturday.

With Sheffield defeating Plymouth at home also on Saturday, it now means the Eagles can’t finish in the top four placings and dependant on Leicester’s visit to Surry on Sunday afternoon they could finish as low as sixth.

Their potential playoff opponents look like being either Caledonia or Sheffield with both those sides having a home court advantage should the quarter final playoff tie go to a third game.

Of course, with the way Head Coach Marc Steutel’s men are playing, it could even be a win in two games or a loss in two games. That of course is all conjecture and for another day. What was disappointing was the loss to Manchester from a good position.

The Giants will finish outside the playoff places but have certainly finished the season in spectacular style. Their win on Friday night at Leicester gave Newcastle hope of a top four finish which they took away from the Eagles with another stunning victory at home.

Yet, early on, it looked as if it as going to be Newcastle’s night as they were in the ascendency early. Rickey McGill led the charge in particular as Eagles made little runs throughout the first period always holding the upper hand.

They took the first period 30 points to 19 and when Josh Ward-Hibbert also got going in the second they actually held a fourteen-point lead at one stage before William Lee and Mason Bourcier led The Giants back.

A 10 points to 2 home run up to the commercial break brought Manchester back into the contest and despite Coach Steutel ringing the changes and trying different combinations going deep into his bench his side couldn’t stem the flow.

The Giants rallied so well that a final 8 – 2 burst to take the quarter meant they actually went into the locker rooms leading by a point. They had done a superb job on Eagles top scorer Jordan Johnson who actually didn’t score in the first twenty minutes.

The third period saw Ward-Hibbert lend great support to McGill and Johnson finally getting going. With that punch Eagles once again went in front by seven points during the quarter but once again back came Manchester.

This time it was mainly down to Nicholas Lewis a player that has often shown big against Newcastle in the past and who really got hot in the second half to lead his team in fine fashion.

After leading much of the way, Eagles needed two Ward-Hibbert free throws to send them into the final quarter level at 70 points a-piece and it was, as it had been since the end of the first half, game on.

Once again Newcastle held the initial sway and with 3:45 to go had got back in front by seven points. Lewis though wasn’t going away and he inspired his teammates to a 12 – 2 burst that took them back into the lead.

McGill levelled for Newcastle as the game went into the final minute and then a foul called on Lewis by Darius Defoe with 33 seconds remaining gave him the opportunity to put the home side back in front which he took.

The Eagles couldn’t find a way back in the final half minute or so and the game ended with Manchester celebrating a second win in 24 hours against a playoff bound team. Newcastle left to reflect that it wasn’t going to be a top four finish after all.

McGill and Ward-Hibbert were the mainstays of the Eagles offensive efforts with several cameos included that almost helped them get over the line. But in the end Manchester’s better shooting percentages from 3-point and free throw line and rebounding were the telling statistics.

So, for the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles it’s now onto the playoffs with a regular season record of 18 wins and 18 losses with the home/away ratio on both being 9 at home and 9 away. Perhaps home court advantage will not make a lot of difference in the final reckoning.