A hard-fought success at Glasgow Rocks completed yet another weekend win double for Newcastle Eagles to keep them firmly in the hunt for the BBL Championship title – in what promises to be a thrilling final few weeks of the regular season.
Following on from a comfortable home triumph against London Lions 48 hours earlier at Sport Central, Fab Flournoy and his players shrugged off the absence of the injured Drew Lasker to record a superb 12th win in 13 league games.
Darius Defoe and Paul Gause were the main architects of the victory, the former racking up 21 points and eight rebounds, while Gause top-scored with 22 precious points to keep the quest for silverware well and truly alive.
The first half at the Emirates Arena was characterised by dramatic pendulum swings of momentum, mainly due to two significant scoring runs for each side, as the home fans tried to put the BBL Trophy final against Worcester next Sunday to the back of their minds.
With the game locked at 18-18, the hosts were the first to make a decisive move as they outscored the Eagles 13-2, a three-pointer by Scottish guard Jonny Bunyan handing the home team the first double-figure lead of the contest. Needing a reply to stop the game getting away from them, the Eagles answered in stunning and emphatic fashion as they scored the next 16 points without reply to erase the deficit and give themselves a small but nevertheless handy cushion.
Gause was the main spark of the offensive surge and a score by his backcourt colleague Malik Cooke ensured the Eagles kept their modest lead at 39-34 by the time the interval arrived.
In a keenly-contested third quarter, neither team was able to make the same kind of dramatic burst as during the first 20 minutes, although the Rocks did manage to pull level at 48-48 via their dangerous big man Daniel Northern.
The visitors then threatened to pull away again with a seven-point advantage, only for Chris Johnson to sink a three-pointer for the Rocks to reduce the damage as time expired in the penultimate period.
With the outcome still very much hanging in the balance heading into the final ten minutes, the Eagles regained the upper hand by stretching their lead out to double-digits following a basket by Flournoy and back-to-back scores by Darius Defoe. However, it was the aggressive defence led by Flournoy which made all the difference and ultimately kept the Rocks at bay when the home side launched a late bid to try and snatch a win out of the the Eagles’ hands.
However, the locals were left disappointed as the headline contributors of the Eagles gained valuable support via a combined and precious 34 points from Charles Smith and Malik Cooke.
The Eagles will seek to extend their run on Friday night at the dangerous Manchester Giants before subsequently making the short trip down the A1 to Newton Aycliffe to face Durham Wildcats in a derby match-up on Sunday.
Glasgow: Northern 19, Johnson 19, Urli 17
Newcastle: Gause 22 , Defoe 21, Smith 19