A PATCHED-up Eagles outfit last night bounced back from defeat to demolish the travelling Leicester Riders.
A bout of illness tore through the Tynesiders’ dressing room only five days after the Scottish Rocks ended play-caller Fab Flournoy’s blistering 10-game winning streak.
But the New Yorker inspired his flu-ridden roster to beat Martin Ford’s men inside the Metro Radio Arena.
And after the Riders’ coach had claimed the Eagles were in a state of crisis with roster unrest and player spats, Flournoy sent Ford back to Leicester to lick his wounds as he closed out a 16-point game with relative ease.
Any doubts that Flournoy would go easy on his team after they crumbled against Sterling Davis’s team last week were soon repressed as the Eagles took an early lead. Within minutes, the home side had opened up a five-point gap, but having blazed a 7-2 tear in the opening moments, the Eagles lost control as Ford’s men clawed their way back into the game.
Joel Burns hit two points from the free-throw line before grabbing a basket inside the paint to level the game with three minutes left of the first quarter.
But points from Richard Midgley and Darius Defoe restored the Eagles’ slender two-point lead, and when the Riders emerged from the interval they went ahead with only seconds gone.
American Kyle Greathouse scooped a massive three-point shot to propel his side into the lead and give the Eagles an early scare.
However, Charles Smith replied and made sure that the home side maintained control.
It was the fiery Lithuanian Mandaugas Janiska who kept the pressure on Flournoy’s nervy roster.
Warned for throwing a stray elbow under the Riders’ basket, Janiska scored six points in the second quarter to keep Ford’s men in contention. But when Flournoy returned to the court, he brought with him his trademark uncompromising defence to quell the Riders’ threat.
And the New York veteran hit back-to-back baskets to give the Tynesiders an eight-point advantage which, at the half-time interval, gave the home side a 53-43 lead.
However, it was only in the third period that the Riders found their scoring form. Kyle Greathouse hit huge back-to-back threes and Chad McKnight was red-hot from the line. In total, the headband-clad American hit nine first-quarter points en route to a game-high tally of 21. But the Eagles persisted and maintained their advantage, going into the fourth quarter with a score of 75-66.
Midgley scooped two colossal three-point shots to effectively end the game and Flournoy opted to close out the contest with young-guns Will Spragg, Aaron Nielsen and Brian McCotter – but unlike last week it was simply a choice made to secure a formality.
The Eagles travel to London tonight for their first game inside the Capital City Academy. Flournoy goes toe-to-toe with former England team-mate Steve Bucknall as the London Capitals attempt to make amends for the early season mauling inflicting on them in Newcastle.
And Bucknell’s men come into the game off the back of a humiliating midweek defeat to Milton Keynes.
Inspired by Yorick Williams’ 20 points, the Lions eased past the Capitals by 89-70 in Wednesday night’s clash at the Bletchley Centre.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Richard Midgley 20, Lynard Stewart 18, Flournoy 15.
LEICESTER RIDERS: Chad McKnight 21, Kyle Greathouse 15, Terrence Woodyard 14, Joel Burns 14.