Newcastle Eagles completed their BBL Cup North Group campaign on Friday night with a thumping 104 – 71 win over Manchester Giants. It took their record to 6 wins and 4 losses and means they will finish third in the group.
It qualifies them for a Cup quarter-final tie that will be on the road either at Bristol or Worcester in a fortnight’s time depending on how the South Group pans out. In what was a solid team performance, Newcastle were pleased to get back to winning ways at home.
Veteran guard Drew Lasker was one of five starting players to hit double figures in scoring with 14 points adding in 5 rebounds, 3 assists and two blocked shots in an all-action display. He spoke about the performance after the game.
“It was very nice to get a home win as it feels ages since we did. That one was for the fans and we just wanted to come out and play hard for forty minutes. Our Achilles heel this season has been our third quarters. We just wanted to come out and come out with energy.”
“We’ve been coming out with a lack of energy in the third and team’s have been jumping on us. So, we wanted to come out and throw the first punch and coming out with energy. It was great because everybody got off the bench today and we got contributions from everybody so it was a good night.”
Such a good night that Lasker and fellow veterans and cornerstones of the Eagles roster for a few seasons, Rahmon Fletcher and Darius Defoe were all able to sit out the final ten minutes after playing their parts.
“With us three being the oldest on the team any time you can get a pocket of rest you’ve got to put that in the bank because it’s a long season and The BBL comes thick and fast. So, if you get an opportunity to rest the legs you’ve got to take it.”
Not that the absence of the veterans slowed the pace down in the final ten minutes when young Eagle Academy graduate Themba Yabantu was able to delight the home fans with his presence on the floor as Newcastle powered to victory.
Two huge pluses for the Eagles were the performances of first-year Newcastle and BBL players Sade Aded Hussein and Mike Morsell who led the team in scoring with 22 and 20 points respectively. Lasker paid tribute to their contribution.
“They were big. Mike just doing what he’s doing being aggressive in transition and it looks like he’s finally over his hamstring injury and he backed himself. We talked with Sade pre-game about just going out there and playing with energy and being a force down low.”
“Also rebounding as we were down a big man tonight, we were going to need that and they both stepped up tonight.”
Lasker intimated the situation about the Eagles releasing John Mitchell on the eve of the game and how that could have affected the mood and way the side played.
“Those type of things can make you go one of two ways. Either it can rally you together or you can come out a little lethargic. But it was great that we rallied together. We’d said we had to make up for what John had been bringing on the court and everyone had to bring a bit more and that’s what we did tonight.”
Now the Eagles as well as facing that quarter-final will open up the BBL Championship season on the road and won’t actually be back at the Eagles Community Arena until December 20th when Manchester return for a league game.
“It’ll be strange as unfortunately we’ll be on the road for the quarter-final. But it is what it is. I feel like if we are playing at our peak and at our best it don’t matter where we’re at. We’re one of the best teams in the league and it’s about getting to that level consistently.”
The Eagles hierarchy will use the next couple of weeks before that quarter-final to look to fill the spot vacated by Mitchell and do so knowing that the winning feeling and confidence is back in the camp.