Esh Group Eagles Newcastle v Plymouth University Raiders  

Friday 30 January 2015  – Sport Central – 7:30pm

Newcastle Eagles welcome Plymouth Raiders to Sport Central on Friday with selflessness and sacrifice the watchwords for player-coach Fab Flournoy.

The reigning BBL champions’ knack for sharing the scoring and defending diligently as a team was on display again last weekend as they denied Glasgow Rocks any BBL Cup Final revenge with a 96-67 victory.

That was Eagles’ first league game since suffering just their second defeat, against second-placed Worcester Wolves, two days prior to lifting the BBL Cup.

But they remain at the summit, with two games in hand over Worcester, and their team-first attitude one of their core strengths.

“We struggled a little bit early [against Glasgow], but even then I thought our energy and intensity were good,” said Flournoy.

“I am happy that we managed to play through some adversity and come out the other side.”

He added: “Players have to be selfless and willing to sacrifice their own touches for the team.

“You also have to have a smart team who understand where the ball needs to get to and who has it going at any one time.”

That understanding and knowledge of what it takes to win flows through this team, with the source being Flournoy himself.

His tireless preparation, coupled with an incredible drive to win, continues to inspire his team.

They will likely have to be at their best – particularly on the defensive end – against a Raiders team, who have demonstrated how they can light it up from long range.

Flournoy added: “We will have to defend them diligently, adhere to the scouting report and play in an aggressive but disciplined way.”

Last time they met:

Plymouth Raiders 82 Newcastle Eagles 88 (BBL Championship, Plymouth Pavilions, 22/11/2014)

What they say:

Raiders guard Josh Wilcher: “Newcastle are obviously the benchmark in the league which I’m sure every team wants to get to.

“For us, we believe that when we are on our game, shooting the ball the way we know we can, as well as playing defence like we expect from ourselves ,we can really push any side in the competition.”

Sheffield Sharks v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle   

Sunday 01 February 2015 – EIS Sheffield – 3:15pm

Returning star Mike Cook believes Sheffield Sharks have all the pieces required to emulate the success of his first spell in the Steel City.

The shooting guard returned in January, rejoining the club where he was named BBL MVP and lifted the BBL Cup in 2010.

He enjoyed perhaps his best performance of his second spell to date on Sunday, scoring a team-high 21 points as Sharks snapped Cheshire Phoenix 11-game winning run in the league.

And ahead of another meeting with the old enemy Newcastle Eagles, Cook can see Atiba Lyons’ squad have the potential to build on that impressive victory.

“I just think we’re getting into a better rhythm,” he said.

“I know it’s been tough on the guys, having a player like me to adjust to but my team-mates have been patient with me, and I feel like we are getting better every week.

“I like this team, I think we have every piece that a team needs to win a championship.

He added: “I think the team that we had here before was a special team and I see no reason why this team can’t have the same success as we make a push for the Play-offs.”

Sharks currently sit in sixth spot with a 9-10 record, some way off the pace that saw them finish as runners-up to Newcastle last term.

These teams have already met three times this season too, with Eagles winning all three to extend their streak against Sharks to five.

But Cook is not concerned about that going into Sunday’s clash at EIS Sheffield, insisting Sharks must concentrate on their own effort and execution.

“We need to focus on us more than any other opponent.

“[We need to] just keep building on what we are trying to do here in Sheffield and just going out there and giving 100 per cent effort every night. ”

Last time they met:

Newcastle Eagles 85 Sheffield Sharks 76 (BBL Cup semi-final, second leg – Eagles won 162-151 on aggregate, Sport Central, 12/12/2014)

What they say:

Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy: “Sheffield are a smart, tough team. They have just added Mike Cook, which gives them a different look from last time we played them.

“We will have to adjust to that and ensure we play with energy and rebound the ball well.”