Another majestic display from “Prince” Charles Smith helped the Eagles back to the top of the BBL table after they crushed Birmingham 109-86 last night. The veteran forward was just three steals short of a staggering quadruple-double, something almost unheard of in the British game.
For he finished with the most impressive line of any Eagles player in recent memory with a stunning 24 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists and 7 steals. While it came against a struggling team, the injury-hit Eagles still needed a big performance, with Jeremy Hyatt not suited up and several players toiling with injuries.
Smith dedicated the win to the clubs’ fans, although he claimed that their real Christmas present was delivered last weekend when Smith helped the club reach another BBL final. ‘It’s always great to get a win, and as it’s our last home game of the year and just before Christmas, it makes it even better,’ he said.
‘I wanted to make sure our fans could enjoy Christmas, although our real present wasn’t this win or performance but getting to the Cup Final in the previous game. I think the big present definitely arrived a week or two early and this was just something a little extra to enjoy – I was having so much fun out there.’
‘We had a slow start but once we got going and played better defence we really clicked and I felt good. It’s really hard not to come into a game against the likes of Birmingham in a lackadaisical mood because everyone knows they are a few players down at the moment and having a hard time.’
‘The fact they played so hard and pushed us in the first quarter really helped, and after that we pushed on and all the guys played a part. I think we go into the BBL Trophy next week, and so it’s nice to break from the league with a win and a record we can be really happy about.’
Smith had plenty of support from the rest of the team and even the bench players got in on the act, with everyone getting on the score sheet – apart from Fab Flournoy. The Panthers made a real game of it in the opening period and contained the Eagles to go into the second quarter tied at 19-19. Unfortunately for the visitors, this was the calm before the storm.
A blistering 24-4 run by the home team left the Panthers reeling, although worryingly Fab Flournoy had to leave the court before the break after aggravating his groin strain. At 53-29, the game was over by half-time, but the fans still had plenty to cheer in the second half when Bensham young-gun Wil Spragg came off the bench to score the first points of his professional career.
While Panthers rallied and briefly narrowed the deficit to 14, it was as close as they got as the Eagles cantered to victory.
Eagles: Smith 24, Babalola 21, Bridge 19.
Panthers: Sandell 20, Williams 17, Paternostro 15.