NEWCASTLE Eagles gave their fans a perfect start to the Christmas period with a festive feast of points to blow away a plucky Birmingham Panthers side.
It was always expected the Eagles would win last night’s encounter but you have to be professional in your approach and Newcastle made sure they had the league points in the bag before presenting their faithful fans with an offensive explosion.
However, there were some worrying signs for Eagles coach Fab Flournoy as he limped out of the game early in the second quarter with a recurrence of his groin injury and in-form forward Olu Babalola also left the game limping badly in the fourth period after posting 21 points.
But the Eagles always look to the positives and they had plenty during the game, including a brilliant individual performance from the effervescent Charles Smith.
Smith recorded a personal triple double (24 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists) and with seven steals he was only three off an almost unprecedented quadruple double. It was also a big night for local lad Will Spragg as he scored his first points in the BBL with two from two from the charity stripe and a three-point bucket knocked down for good measure.
It was the perfect opportunity for Flournoy to run his young bench players and both Aaron Nielson and Brian McCotter also made it on to the scoresheet.
Birmingham have struggled all season but in the first period they managed to stay with the Eagles throughout the 10 minutes. Panthers even took an early 4-2 lead but Newcastle opened a four-point gap twice before Panthers levelled the scores at 19-19.
The second quarter showed the Eagles’ power as they produced a blistering 17-2 start to blow the game wide open and develop a gap the Panthers would never close. Another 16-3 run made the game safe as the Eagles took a 53-29 lead into the locker room at half-time.
To the Panthers’ credit, they never gave up, and after falling 30 points behind at 68-38 they actually rallied to produce a 17-8 finish to win the third period 30-28. But they still had far too much to do in the final 10 minutes to make the game competitive.
In the final stanza, attention focused on Smith and Lynard Stewart as both players homed in on personal landmarks.
Stewart got the two rebounds he needed to complete yet another double-double in an Eagles vest of 17 points and 10 rebounds and Smith notched five assists to round off his own personal milestone.
The Eagles closed out the game to send the fans home happy. The Eagles now get some well-earned rest and the chance to heal their knocks before the small matter of a trip to Everton Tigers in the BBL Trophy in a week’s time – and a clash with Richard Midgley.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Charles Smith 24, Olu Babalola 21, Andrew Bridge 19
BIRMINGHAM PANTHERS: Daniel Sandell 20, Lataryl Williams 17