Nigerian National Team 80
Newcastle Eagles 70
The Newcastle Eagles ended their European adventure with another defeat condemning them to 4th place overall in the hugely successful Basketball Days Tournament in Zwolle, Holland. Once again the Eagles played without Joe Chapman and Fab Flournoy and then were dealt another blow when Paul Gause limped out of the game at half-time.
At that stage the Eagles only trailed 39 – 36 and were well in the game thanks to Charles Smith’s 17 first half points and solid contributions from the rest of the team. But the question was could they keep it going in the second half?
No, was the unfortunate answer but it wasn’t without trying as the Eagles played hard and fought all the way to the final buzzer. Youngsters Lamar Morrison and Ross Wilson played more minutes than they’d ever previously done and neither looked out of place in such company.
Joel Madourie who has struggled with injury which has restricted him on his move up from the EBL had a really good final night and all three should take heart and confidence from their contributions over the four days.
In the end though Nigeria’s deeper roster and fresher legs made the difference as Chinedu Onyevku shot the ball well and Ezenwa Ukeagu was a powerhouse inside to enable the Nigerians to hold on t their lead and increase it ten points by the final buzzer.
Darius Defoe had a monster of a second half pulling down rebounds and netting 16 personal in the final 20 minutes but eventually the Nigerians managed to shut-down Smith and that made the difference in the game.
So, ultimately a 1 – 3 record over four days does not sound good for The Eagles but it doesn’t tell the full story. A fully fit roster would have gone very close to winning this tournament which was something that Fab Flournoy said himself at the end of day 4/game 4.
The final analysis for The Eagles is that this was a fantastic opportunity to test themselves to the full and they will be better for the experience which will really set them up for the second half of the BBL season and their tilt at four Trophies.
As for the tournament? Well it was won by the home side Landstede Basketball Zwolle who were deserved winners and without doubt the best organised and deepest team in the tournament. In the final they beat Gremio Mogi of Brazil convincingly 90 – 63.
Zwolle also had the MVP of the Tournament in point guard Damon Huffman who was a revelation throughout the competition. Huffman was joined in the All-Star starting five by Nigeria’s guard Onyeuku and power forward Ukeagu. The other two members of that starting five were forward Gerald Riley from the US-based 94fifty Allstars and Germio Mogi’s experienced forward Fernando Alvim.
So, that’s the European adventure over for the Eagles who’ll see the New Year in and then prepare for the rest of the BBL season and the challenges to come ahead.