BBL Cup winners Newcastle Eagles ensured the feelgood factor continued last night after treating a packed Sport Central to a performance fitting of a triumphant homecoming party.
The rampant league leaders dismissed any concern the pre-game jovialities and celebrations might prove a distraction after turning on the style and tearing Sheffield Sharks to shreds to collect an excellent 86-67 victory.
It was another performance likely to send a strong message to their BBL Championship rivals as the Eagles begin considering the potential of a clean sweep – something being cautiously whispered now piece of silverware number one is safely secured in the trophy cabinet.
There was a definite sense of euphoria ahead of the tip-off when the team made their usual entrance onto the court armed with the BBL Cup. Only this time, MVP Charles Smith ran out last line and deservedly lapping up the adulation of the 3,000 strong crowd.
And, it was the veteran who picked up where he left off at the NIA in Birmingham with the first score of the game as the confidence visibly oozed through the hosts who stormed into a 9-0 lead.
Having held Sharks scoreless for almost four minutes, ex-Eagles employee Olu Babalola belatedly got the visitors off the mark as they scored seven unanswered points of their own before a big dunk by Darius Defoe put the home team back in control.
The other two main stars of the Cup Final, Andrew Bridge and Pau Gause were also contributing well with Bridge sinking a triple and the latter finishing a nice ‘and-1 play’ to give the Eagles a commanding 27-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The same player started the second period with a long range score and with forward Andy Thomson also impressing, there was little respite for the Sharks. Not to be outdone, it was Smith who ensured the Eagles finished the half with a flourish.
Re-producing the kind of play which illuminated the Final, he spectacularly drained a triple from the corner with just two seconds left and after being fouled, scored from the resulting free-throw to complete a rare four-point play and give the Eagles a 47-30 advantage at the interval.
Despite the Sharks threating to cut the deficit to single digits and making an unlikely comeback after the break, successive three-pointers at the end of the third by Joe Chapman kept them at bay.
When danger man Nate Reinking then went down injured, it was over as a meaningful contest and as Sharks fans bemoaned a poor night at the office for their team, home supporters revelled in another joyous moment as Darius Defoe ended the game by throwing down a monstrous dunk.
The Eagles will now look to avoid a real banana skin in the derby game at Durham Wildcats tonight in what is a top versus bottom of the league clash.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Gause 18, Smith 15, Defoe 14,Thomson 14
SHEFFIELD SHARKS Reinking 18, Tuck 12, Babalola 11