A depleted Newcastle Eagles cruised past Plymouth Raiders to take a share of second place in the BBL Championship.
The Eagles were without explosive point guard Paul Gause, and invaluable forward Scott Martin, after the American pair picked up injuries during last week’s tense win over Cheshire Phoenix.
But it did not deter Fab Flournoy and Co who cantered home against a lacklustre Plymouth side.
The Eagles , though limited in their roster, relied on big minutes and big numbers from their star players, which began with consecutive and-one lay-ups for Darius Defoe and Charles Smith.
Drew Lasker started the game against his former team and gave his current employers a quick outlet in attack as he ran fast break after fast break.
Despite the visitors taking an early 3-4 lead, Newcastle replied with a 9-0 forcing Raiders coach Jay Marriott into a time-out.
At the end of the first quarter Newcastle led 23-15 and Fab Flournoy was filling in admirably for the injured Gause, dishing out four assists in the opening 10 minutes.
The second period showed what a team effort the game was having to be for the home side with their depleted roster – Smith and Malik Cooke reached double figures early on, with Flournoy adding three more assists to reach seven by half-time.
Plymouth, after starting strong, were woeful attacking the basket and shot a miserable 33% from the field and hit only one of their 13 three-point attempts.
Newcastle meanwhile, made 21 of their 45 shots and were doubling the points created off of turnovers.
At half-time they led 47-33 and were being rarely troubled.
Lasker, in games prior to this one, had arguably underperformed since his move back to the North East last summer, but against his old team he shone just how Newcastle needed him to.
The 6ft 2in guard had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds by the end of the third quarter, proving his worth on the boards in attack and defence.
Despite the injuries, Flournoy ran a relatively unchanged line-up for most of the penultimate stanza – the only notable rotation was Stuart Thomson coming in to briefly replace and Defoe and then Cooke.
The score after three quarters was 64-55 in favour of the home team, but in truth that flattered the visitors. Plymouth were afforded cheap points as Newcastle got themselves in to foul trouble – a by-product of the tiredness that began to set in.
Regardless of the minutes several senior Eagles were having to play, they regained their composure in the final quarter and dominated the last 10 minutes. With the Raiders still shooting barely over 30% Newcastle hit the boards hard and ran the break well – dunks from Cooke, Thomson and Defoe highlighted Plymouth’s lack of interior defence.
The Raiders’ were then left short as forwards Chris Hines and Tom Woods both fouled out of the game.
The game had ended as a contest before the fourth quarter began and Plymouth looked resigned to their ninth loss of the Championship. With the lead at a comfortable 25 points, Eddie Matthew checked in to the game for the first time and was duly given the biggest cheer of the evening.
The game ended with Newcastle blowing out their coastal rivals 98-71 in a contest that should have been a lot closer than it was given the depleted home line-up.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Defoe 26, Cooke 25, Smith 17
PLYMOUTH: Robinson 17, George 11, Hines 8