Fab Flournoy predicts big guns will go blow for blow

Fab Flournoy thinks Sheffield Sharks’ three-point advantage will count for nothing when two of the BBL’s biggest hitters do battle for a Cup final place

Newcastle Eagles manager and player Fab Flournoy
Newcastle Eagles manager and player Fab Flournoy

Fab Flournoy thinks Sheffield Sharks’ three-point advantage will count for nothing when two of the BBL’s biggest hitters do battle for a Cup final place.

Flournoy’s Newcastle Eagles have to overturn the Sharks’ slender first-leg lead at Sport Central tonight, but the player-coach believes that it will not affect the mentality of his team, which will be to put up as many points as they can.

Although the Eagles have traditionally been a strong defensive team, Flournoy believes the critical thing is for his team to improve offensively to overcome the in-form Sharks.

“I think both teams have a lot of offensive weapons so it will be a really hard battle for us both. We’re both capable of scoring points,” he said.

“To be honest they have a lot of offensive talent and they can cause damage. They have signed a new player in Demetrius Jemison who was with them last season and he is a very good addition.

“They have that kind of quality on their roster. There are good players there in Simmons, Nick Lewis and Olu (Babalola) is Olu, he’s a very good player. They have Patrick Horstmann who got away from us in the home game. We have to score and put points on the board.

“We always talk about defence but the games that we have struggled in this year are the games where we have struggled to put points on the board. We need to make sure that we execute properly, and scoring is the responsibility of everyone on the team, not just one or two of the guys.”

Flournoy has spent the week telling his Eagles that they must make a quick start to the game to try to wrestle control back from a Sheffield team that are full of confidence.

Although the gap between thetwo teams gives the Sharks aslight advantage, Flournoy is not particularly concerned about the three points that separates the two sides. He says it will not affect his thinking as he tells his team to “set the tempo”.

“Three points is nothing for either team. That is one possession for either team and that is all that it boils down to,” he said.

“That is not much and it means that we will go into this game knowing exactly what we need to do, which is not a bad thing for us. This game will be won by the team that comes down and sets the tempo in this game early.

“It’s going to be the team that takes control of it and imposes themselves on the game, which is something that we looked at after the last game.”

The Cup has a uniquely important place in the BBL season, which adds an extra edge to tonight’s Sport Central clash.

“It is the one that is most talked about and built up throughout the season because that is what most of the teams spend the first few months of the season building up to,” he said.

“It is the most talked about competition because it is the first silverware of the season and that is why games like this are so interesting. Whatever happens in this game it will set the tone for our season, because if we win it gives the team a winning identity and if we lose than we will develop an identity that is forged in adversity.

“It is a very important competition because it is the competition that has most energy expended on it.”

Despite that, the Eagles have won the Cup less than any of the other trophies available in British basketball. Flournoy scoffs at the idea there is any kind of psychological hang-up.

“We have won the Cup enough times. It just falls at a bad time for us,” he said.

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