FAB Flournoy says player power is behind the Newcastle Eagles BBL title fight-back.
Flournoy’s men faced an onerous task in Surrey this weekend against a dangerous-looking Heat side but produced a doughty display to keep the pressure on Leicester Riders, who responded by beating Glasgow Rocks.
It was a fine performance in its own right, but combined with the injuries the Eagles are carrying – and a lack of preparation time for the game – it was a doubly impressive response to more pressure from the Eagles.
The victory gives them some respite in their fierce battle for BBL supremacy, with this weekend’s game against winless Mersey Tigers a chance to give some of the junior players some minutes while protecting their key men for some of March’s big games.
Not that those senior men will necessarily welcome a rest after they played such a pivotal role in the Surrey win.
Kareem Maddox led the way but there were also telling contributions from Joe Chapman and Charles Smith, and a general feeling of the Eagles’ established stars grasping some responsibility for their situation.
Flournoy revealed that the players took it upon themselves to change their warm-up routine and said that he was also impressed by their intensity and determination after a week when it would have been easy to make excuses.
“I think it was one of the hardest games we have played in a long while,” he said.
“We played with intensity and we really came out and wanted that victory. I was very happy with the guys and I was very satisfied with the win.
“I was worried before the game that we might burn out. It really hasn’t been ideal for us in terms of preparation and in terms of practice recently.
“Kareem was leading the way but everyone was making a monumental efforts. Charles, Joe – they all played at that level and I think that was the most satisfying thing for me.” Flournoy has been asking his players to “step up” to the plate for weeks and was delighted with their response, which saw them also take on some of the responsibilities during preparation.
During some weeks the team has hardly been able to practice because they haven’t had enough senior players.
“There was a change in our warm-up routine,” he said. “Dave Forrester asked me before the game whether it was on my say-so that we changed things up a bit but they decided to do that themselves.
“It just goes to show that we’re all united and that everyone is making a monumental effort to try and drag us back into this title event.”
Maddox, unsurprisingly, swiped the headlines for his contribution. He scored 26 points but the American guard also racked up impressive defensive stats.
“Kareem had a monster game. It was incredible the level that he played at,” Flournoy said. “It wasn’t just the fact of his scoring, it was his defensive effort in the basketball game as well. At both ends he played at a phenomenal level. He did everything superbly – he was really in sync with what we were trying to do.
“It was just a sight to see. He had ten defensive rebounds and ten offensive rebounds – and he was up there in terms of blocked shots, rebounds and everything he did. It really paved the way for one of those performances.”