NEWCASTLE Eagles regained outright lead of the BBL Championship last night after hammering Mersey Tigers, arguably the worst-ever top-flight British basketball side, writes PAUL NILSEN.
NEWCASTLE Eagles regained outright lead of the BBL Championship last night after hammering Mersey Tigers, arguably the worst-ever top-flight British basketball side.
The fact that Fab Flournoy rotated his bench for the entire game and ensured long spells when there was only one senior player on the court only underlined how much of a monumental mismatch this nonsense of a clash actually was.
It was about as far away as you could possibly get from the moment when, a few years ago, Tigers were celebrating winning the treble on the same court at Sport Central.
Nowadays, they have dropped so far down in the pecking order that the fall from grace has taken them from one end of the spectrum to the other, having not even won a single game all season – let alone a trophy.
Of course the title-chasing Eagles can only beat who is put in front of them, although since everybody else is cruising past the Tigers, these games are rendered as little more than a glorified practice session.
In fact, Flournoy would call that an insult to his practice sessions.
Even the admirable spirit and hardworking nature of the Tigers is nowhere near enough mitigation to warrant their place in the current BBL, with the most depressing aspect the fact that the Eagles will have to repeat this non-event and total charade again before the season ends.
The one positive to emerge from this one-sided farce was that the younger players and the bench players were able to showcase their skills and did a fine job, even if resistance and calibre of the opponent was weak.
There was plenty of court-time dished out for the likes of Joe Ikhimnwin and Joel Madourie, while the senior players certainly enjoyed padding out their season and career statistics without breaking stride, further highlighting the gaping chasm in class.
One of the rare flourishes made by the visitors came during the first quarter when they managed to convert successive three-pointers, although they still found themselves 25-14 behind. They battled as manfully as they could but by half-time, the Eagles had more than doubled their tally at 53-24.
A flying dunk by Madourie had managed to get the fans on their feet prior to the interval and it was to be a precursor to the Eagles bench carrying the baton in the second half when they brutally crushed the Tigers without hitting top gear. Darius Defoe and Joe Chapman both claimed double-doubles, the former finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds and the latter claiming 16 points and a sparkling 12 assists to consign the winless Tigers to an 18th straight loss.
At least next weekend is going to be a big test for the Eagles when they travel to fellow title contenders Surrey Heat. That will suit this group of Eagles players just fine. For these players are used to thriving on a challenge, rather than enjoying walkovers like this.
TOP SCORERS – Newcastle: Defoe 24, Smith 21, Chapman 16. Mersey: Hulsen 17, Lockett 16, Eboigbe 12