Newcastle Eagles skipper Andrew Bridge believes the timely return to action of player-coach Fab Flournoy could make the difference during the title run-in after the New Yorker helped the league leaders to a couple of thrilling wins over the weekend.
Having beaten Cheshire Jets at Sport Central on Friday night in one of the most entertaining and absorbing games of the season, the Eagles’ title credentials were then given another stern test as they visited UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders.
It was to prove to be another nail-biting win for the defending BBL Champions as they emerged from a nightmare first half to return home from their longest road trip of the season with a precious victory ahead of their show down with fellow favourites Mersey Tigers tomorrow night.
“It’s great for us to have Fab (Flournoy) back because of the experience and leadership he brings us – even if he isn’t fully fit.”
“In special situations like we had at the end of the Plymouth game you really do see the value of having him on court.”
“While at the moment he can’t physically do what he normally does, he has the capacity to psyche out opponents who know about his defensive capabilities.”
“It was also fundamentally important to have him inbounding the ball from the side-line to our foul shooters in crunch time which worked out well for us.”
“I think we went down by as many as 17 points in the first half as we basically just gave them any shot they wanted while at the other end we just kept making bad decisions.”
“Our bad shots on offence handed them plenty of easy baskets and it wasn’t until we stopped that, we were then able to make an important run ahead of half-time off the back of some good three-point shooting which dragged us back into the game.”
“Our third quarter defence was excellent and probably made the difference as we turned things around but of course expending all that energy to claw back their lead probably tired us going into the last ten minutes when they made another strong run.”
“However, our three-point shooting and accuracy from the line was hugely important and we performed well in those areas to come out with the victory.”
Mersey Tigers kept pace with their arch rivals and will be looking forward to taking an opportunity to jump into the box-seat with a win tomorrow night after they emerged unscathed in yet another terrific North West derby game against Cheshire Jets.
Tigers were really put to the test by the Jets but once again showed their heart to shrug off injury worries and severe pressure from the home side to grind out an impressive win.
The big question is whether the title race has now become a three horse race after the double setback from Cheshire with One Health Sharks Sheffield chasing down the top two hard after their win at Essex Pirates.
Meanwhile the battle to finish in the top eight shows no sign of slowing down with Guildford Heat, Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders, Worcester Wolves and UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders continually changing places and each taking their turn to drop into the dreaded ninth spot.
This weekend saw Worcester take a break from action and both Riders and Heat cashing in with victories while Raiders had to be satisfied with splitting their double-header.
Riders crushed Worthing Thunder who also lost to Glasgow Rocks while Guildford produced one of their best displays of the season to deny the Rocks a win double and get their play-off charge back on track after some recent setbacks.