Essex Leopards 73 Newcastle Eagles 101: Eagles dominate Leopards

Newcastle Eagles beat Essex Leopards to make the last eight of the BBL Trophy

Malik Cooke of Newcastle Eagles in action
Malik Cooke of Newcastle Eagles in action

A week after enduring BBL Cup final agony, Newcastle Eagles moved a step closer to having a shot at more silverware after reaching the BBL Trophy quarter-finals with a comfortable win at Essex Leopards.

Having already taken the step of burying some of their National Indoor Arena demons via a tight BBL Championship success against Cheshire 48 hours earlier, the Eagles felt comfortable enough not to take star forward Scott Martin to Brentwood.

Despite also missing Paul Gause with an injury, it proved to be an astute decision as the visitors easily avoided a giant-killing by despatching their second-tier opposition without any real drama and helped by an array of stunning shooting displays.

Malik Cooke, Drew Lasker and Darius Defoe were all in scintillating form and amassed a combined 71 points to assert their authority on the Leopards, Defoe completing a double-double by also foraging 10 rebounds.

Fab Flournoy and is team wasted little time in imposing their will on the Leopards and, despite being short on numbers, their intensity was too much to handle for the hosts as they blasted their way into a big lead.

A basket by Lasker made it 22-12 and handed the Eagles a double-figure advantage - and when the same player scored again after a big three-pointer by Charles Smith it looked all over inside the first nine minutes of the contest.

The Leopards were regularly left chasing shadows all over the floor and, even without the guile and strength of Martin to call upon under the basket, the Eagles still did a great job of taking control inside.

Howard Crawford was a constant threat for the Leopards and, while he finished with an impressive game-high 31 points he ended up fighting a lone battle at times – even though former BBL guard Taner Adu had been drafted in to provide more potential firepower.

Moving the ball with real fluidity and finding the open shooters, the Eagles highlighted the gap in quality and the Leopards could not stop the bleeding.

While they finished the half with something of a flourish by scoring six unanswered points, they still trailed 56-36.

The utter dominance of the visitors was retained with a handy 12-2 run midway through the third quarter, a burst which meant they were able to coast home for the remainder of the game - the perfect scenario with a shorter roster than usual.

As well as the headline trio of scorers, Smith showed his experience and class with an all-action 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and it was his calming influence and leadership which allowed the Eagles to cruise into the last eight of the competition.

The victory also wrapped up a morale-boosting weekend, their BBL Championship prospects boosted when title favourites Leicester Riders were defeated by London Lions and then unexpectedly dumped out of the Trophy by Cheshire last night.

NEWCASTLE: Cooke 28, Defoe 26, Lasker 17

ESSEX: Crawford 31, Adu 11, Clark 9

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer