Esh Group Eagles Newcastle posted an early statement of intent to their title rivals after Fab Flournoy’s men completed an opening-weekend win double with a brutal demolition of Cheshire Phoenix.
Far from convincing in their north-east derby success against Durham Wildcats 48 hours earlier at Sport Central, the Eagles looked ominously imperious on their trip to the north-west, led by a mesmerising display from summer signing Malik Cooke.
The guard shot the lights out en-route to 21 points, making all nine of his shots in a flawless and deadly shooting performance only marred slightly by a missed free-throw – and he wasn’t alone in impressing.
Backcourt partner and livewire Paul Gause was also on top of his game, top-scoring with 23 points, helped by a trio of three-pointers and proving too hot to handle for the Phoenix ball-handlers as he grabbed a fantastic five steals.
Powered by a spectacular and scorching opening ten minutes, Flournoy (right) and his team completely torched their hosts with an early bombardment, leaving Phoenix unable to rise from the flames, with their game plan reduced to ashes.
The Eagles were simply unstoppable and the travelling fans were left in raptures as they witnessed their side outclass Cheshire 34-9 in a one-sided but hugely satisfying opening quarter.
Unlike their curtain-raiser with Durham, the Eagles didn’t allow Cheshire the merest whiff of a revival opportunity.
They kept their foot on Phoenix’ throats throughout the contest and any brief fears allowing the home team to score 27 points in the second quarter might lead to a renaissance were quickly eradicated.
Normal business was resumed when the Eagles dismantled Phoenix 33-13 in another powerful offering at both ends of the court when they returned from the locker rooms – something which will have their competitors in the BBL sitting up and taking notice.
Building an emphatic 40-point lead heading into the final period, it allowed the Eagles to cruise home and reflect on having wrapped up two wins in their first two games of the new campaign.
The other bright spots during this first success on the road were that new forward Scott Martin claimed a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Drew Lasker produced the kind of assured and all-action effort which will have left his coach purring.
He fired an efficient 11 points, but was also a tireless worker on and off the ball all night long, grabbing eight rebounds, four steals and three assists to complete a stellar night of work for what looks to be a promising and dynamic backcourt trio.
There was also a typically strong contribution from Darius Defoe, who had an excellent 19 points and nine rebounds.
With three very winnable games now to follow, the Eagles have given themselves a superb opportunity of completing an unbeaten first month of the season as they tip-off the long process of making amends for finishing last year empty-handed.
CHESHIRE: Middleton 27, Doumbe 12, Coleman 11
NEWCASTLE: Gause 23, Cooke 21, Defoe 19