For the first time since 2004, the Esh Group Eagles Newcastle have failed to reach the semi-final of either BBL cup competition after spectacularly crashing out of The BBL Trophy against Sheffield Sharks at Sport Central, 81 – 76, on Friday night, writes Jeff King.
It leaves The Eagles with only the League and The Play-Offs to contend if a multi-talented roster which seems to struggle to deliver at crucial moments self-destructed in dramatic style in an unbelievable third quarter.
At one point in the second period, Fab Flournoy’s men had led by 17 points and took a 14-point advantage in to the locker rooms at the half. They even came out and scored the first points of the second half but then were held scoreless for over seven minutes.
In that time, Sheffield scored 20 points of their own and completely turned the game around dealing Newcastle a knockout blow they couldn’t recover from despite having the whole of the fourth quarter to do so.
Too many of The Eagles big-guns didn’t turn up either offensively or defensively as in front of their shocked loyal fans a second opportunity for silverware slipped through their hands. One of the exceptions to that was point guard Saah Nimley.
Nimley, the on-court leader poured in 26 points with 6 assists in a losing cause and stood up at the end of the game to try and explain the loss and that third quarter meltdown.
“I think we came out in the second half with no energy and they came out with a lot. They stepped on us early and we weren’t able to re-group until late on in to the fourth quarter. At that point they had too much momentum and it was too late.”
“We had a big drought during the third quarter and I take responsibility for that as I’m the point guard. It should start with me offensively getting guys in to the right spots. But we followed the game plan and made the guys we wanted to shoot, shoot.”
“But they hit those shots that we wanted them to take and got hot, so you have to give them credit for that and particularly (Zach) Gachette being on his game tonight. At the same time, I think we could have prevented some of that be being better on offence.”
There, though, is little time for Newcastle and Nimley to contemplate the after effects of the loss as they must get right back in to it this afternoon with another tough, tough game away at Cheshire Phoenix.
Cheshire are the side that earlier this season dramatically knocked Newcastle out of The BBL Cup and are a playing well as a unit this season and will compete next Sunday against Worcester Wolves in The BBL’s first showpiece event of the season, The Cup Final.
Nimley is aware of their abilities and danger to a Newcastle side that must ensure they bounce back quickly.
“We take every game seriously. We lost earlier in the season to them in The Cup. That was disappointing and its disappointing tonight. All we can do is refocus for today at Cheshire. Every game in this league is tough as we’re finding out.”
“Today won’t be any different so we’re going to have to focus up, get some rest and be ready to play on Sunday (today) as we can’t afford to find out what happens if we don’t.”