Newcastle Eagles will now face Cheshire Jets and not Milton Keynes in Saturday’s BBL Trophy semi-finals after the Lions were sensationally dumped out of the competition. Fab Flournoy and his players have been enjoying a near-fortnight break from action and have been preparing to face the Lions – the team that beat them in the Cup Final – in a revenge mission.
But those plans will now go out of the window. Everyone in British basketball was expecting the Lions to stroll past Leicester over the weekend and rubber stamp their place in the semis. But the Riders, who have been awful of late, ripped up the form book and pulled off one of the shocks of the season.
It meant that Cheshire Jets completed the group games last night with an unexpected opportunity to progress to the semi-finals at the expense of the Lions – and they did so in style with a convincing 84-71 win against Leicester.
The fact that former Eagles icon TJ Walker was cut by the Jets over the weekend has made it an incredible couple of days in the BBL. While Walker will miss out on the big game, many Eagles fans jumped on the fact that he had been released and hoped that he might be returning to Tyneside to end the club’s search for a point guard.
But the Californian is still a permit player and there are currently no import spots available on the Eagles roster.
Another player who won’t be coming to join Flournoy’s side is British legend “Diamond” Danny Lewis. He left the club’s hierarchy reeling after he decided not to sign a short-term contract. Managing director Paul Blake was confident that a deal had been struck and the club were hoping to fly the player into the country in the next few days in a move that would have had fans in raptures.
But Lewis has his heart set on one last hurrah with a club on the Continent.
That is likely to leave both Flournoy and Blake without a new face ahead of the semi-finals and that will be disappointing for supporters who have seen a succession of unhappy players leave this season – a worrying trend.
Tom Sherlock, Richard Midgley and Bryan Defares have all come and gone for various reasons, and with time running out, the club’s season is now on a knife edge with a thin and injury-hit squad.
Whether that could have a major bearing on the silverware haul come the end of the season remains to be seen, although the Eagles’ BBL title hopes were given an unexpected shot in the arm yesterday as closest rivals Guildford Heat crashed at home to Scottish Rocks.