IT’S not just football where you can have a game of two halves – last night at Sport Central Newcastle Eagles overcame Glasgow Rocks despite a dreadful first-half showing.
Their second half was almost unrecognisable from the first as no defence in the first 20 minutes turned in to total defence in the final 20 minutes.
And it was that defence that paved the way for a bounce back victory after the disappointment of losing the BBL Championship 48 hours earlier against Mersey Tigers.
In sweeping the Rocks for the third time this season it gave Fab Flournoy and his battling charges an excellent chance of finishing in second place in the table and giving themselves a top placing for the forthcoming play-offs.
Before that Newcastle have to travel to Leicester tonight to wrap up the regular season and after a superb showing in the second two quarters they’ll travel with confidence boosted and the memory of the Championship loss temporarily behind them.
Flournoy had talked before the game of the new season starting with tonight’s game and emphasising the fact that there was still silverware to play for and the basketball fraternity always says the play-offs are the thing to win as they represent the last man standing before the season ends. Certainly that is now the Eagles goal.
If they are to avoid their first season without a trophy since 2004 then perhaps the men to lead them to a final success are BBL Player of the Month Reggie Jackson and veteran Charles Smith.
‘Action’ Jackson is proving almost unstoppable at the moment and his game-high 31 points was more than the Rocks could muster in the entire second half.
As for Smith he just keeps doing what he does. Silky smooth and deadly from everywhere he rolled in another 20+ point game to help his side to a great victory.
The rest of Flournoy’s men supported well and had enough in their locker despite the exertions of the last few weeks to see their side over the line.
The first quarter was reasonable tight but Rocks just had the edge with Nick Livas in lively form as he netted 12 of his side’s 26 points in that first period which they edged 26-22.
In the second it was E J Harrison and Sterling Davis that led the way for the visitors. Smith and Jackson tried to keep it close but whatever defence Eagles threw at Rocks the Scots had the answer and led 53-44 at the break.
Flournoy spelt it out in the locker room. It had to be about the defence, it was the only way back and his players certainly answered that call in emphatic style. Gradually they wore The Rocks down an clawed their way back to take the lead 69-67 with ten minutes left to play.
Then in that final period they turned the screw once again stretching their lead to eight points at one stage before the Rocks came back one more time.
But with time running out Flournoy produced the drive to the basket with an extra point from the free-throw line as he was fouled when scoring to push his team in to a 5 point gap and then it was left to Jackson to ice the game from the same charity stripe as all Rocks could do was foul the Eagles guard in vain to stop the clock.
So, it’s on to Leicester for the Eagles and that final regular season game. It’s a game they’ll want to win as there is no better preparation for the play-off run than to go in to them as a winning side.
NEWCASTLE: Reggie Jackson 31, Charles Smith 25, Darius Defoe 10
GLASGOW: Nick Livas 18, Sterling Davis 17, E J Harrison 14