Plymouth Raiders 89 Newcastle Eagles 87
Newcastle Eagles' Fab Flournoy remains so thirsty for success that one of his ambitions is to guide his side through a season unbeaten – but it sadly won’t be this year following defeat in Plymouth last night.
The Raiders are difficult to take on at their Plymouth Pavilions home and so it proved last night as Eagles came up just short. The result will be kept in perspective though, ex-Plymouth star Drew Lasker saying: “I’ve never known a BBL Championship to be won or lost after three games or seen anyone go through a full season unbeaten.
“We’re obviously disappointed as we thought we were going to sneak a one and that would have been great. But things like this happen in basketball and it’s how you bounce back and learn from it that counts.”
In a messy start with neither team hitting their shots, Newcastle enjoyed the better of the opening period. With Darius Defoe and Scott Martin starting strong on the boards and inside the paint, Eagles squeezed out an 11-point advantage at one stage.
Restricted to only seven points as the first wound down, a Gabe Haskins triple cut the gap to eight and gave Plymouth momentum going in to the second period. They continued that run with more triples and scored 15 unaswered points to take a four-point lead.
“We made a great start and our defence was stifling. They put a hail mary three up right at the end of the first and it went in. They seemed to take confidence from that and came out and went back-to-back to come at us. After that it was tough all the way,” added Lasker. After that it was anyone’s game as it swayed one way then the other. Malik Cooke once again showed that he’s going to be a big influence for the Eagles with another top-scoring effort and he was given great support from Charles Smith.
Scott Martin also put in a great shift with a massive double-double adding 16 rebounds to his 16 points but ultimately Eagles just couldn’t close the game out down the stretch. With the game tied at 81-81 there was just a tick over 16 seconds left on the clock. Eagles couldn’t get a shot off and we had five extra minutes.
Even then, down 89-87 Paul Gause had one last chance to level the game for Eagles as he was fouled trying to shoot a last-gasp game-tying shot. Unfortunately he missed the first of the free-throws and then when he missed the second the Eagles couldn’t grab the rebound to force double overtime. Lasker added: “Basketball is a game of runs and Plymouth’s run at the beginning of the second was crucial to get them back in the game. I’ve played here for a number of seasons and I know how difficult it is to win in this venue with the intimidating atmosphere and the home town pull.
“We knew it was going to be tough but when you put yourself in a position to win a game on the road and don’t take that opportunity it’s even tougher. “On offence we were terrible and our shooting really let us down. It’s hard to accept when the game is in your hands to take but that’s what makes it the game it is. As a pro you learn to ride witth losses and recover quickly.
“There’s a long way to go and we need to be ready for the road ahead.”