Newcastle Eagles claim thrilling North East derby victory

Scintillating displays from Scott Martin and Drew Lasker ensured Newcastle Eagles secured a well-earned 90-75 derby success at Durham Wildcats and avoided a derailment of their BBL title hopes

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Scintillating displays from Scott Martin and Drew Lasker ensured Newcastle Eagles secured a well-earned 90-75 derby success at Durham Wildcats and avoided a derailment of their BBL title hopes.

On paper at least, it had looked a seriously tricky fixture for the out-of-sorts Eagles, without the injured Paul Gause and going up against a resurgent Wildcats side with three wins from their previous four home games.

But Martin and Lasker both delivered the goods to leave Durham still searching for an elusive first win against their neighbours.

The former was simply unstoppable and accumulated 21 points and 17 rebounds, while the latter finished with 20 points and eight rebounds after a particularly smart shooting performance.

Whilst the Eagles were not at their best, it was a far cry from exactly a week earlier and the debacle at Cheshire Phoenix, when they were way off the pace and painfully cut down to size.

This time, the visitors were far better prepared to take a much-needed victory, mainly due to their defensive work that included a well-planned and method for shackling the ever-present danger posed by veteran Wildcats guard Ralph Bucci. The former Teesside Mohawks star had been at the heart of all things good about Durham during the last month or so, but was transformed into something of a non-factor by the strategy drawn up by Flournoy and his assistant coach Dave Forrester.

Despite playing 33 minutes, the Wildcats captain was held to a paltry two points and that proved to be the decisive thread in a contest which had initially looked like potentially going down to the wire.

After a persistent swinging of the pendulum for the majority of an enjoyable first-half, Wildcats had held a slender 40-39 advantage heading into the third quarter, with Danny Huffor and ex-Eagles player Sam Attah both impressive.

It was when they re-emerged from the locker rooms and stepped back onto the court for the second half that the Eagles gradually began taking control, with a visible increase in their intensity and especially defensively.

A 21-8 burst of scoring during the third period proved to be the turning point in the encounter as the Eagles stormed 60-48 ahead with a series of defensive steals and fast-break scores.

Durham responded with the last six points of the quarter reduce the deficit, but it always looked more likely the Eagles would complete the job and that is exactly how it panned out. Flournoy certainly led his team from the front and played more minutes than any of his players, perhaps in a bid to ensure no rot sets in after the jolt sustained via the unpleasant wake-up call at Cheshire.

The next game will have a bold circle drawn around it in Flournoy’s diary, since it’s the second leg of the BBL Cup semi-final against Sheffield Sharks on Friday and the player-coach desperately needs his team playing confidently if they want to overturn a three-point differential in the tie.

DURHAM WILDCATS: Huffor 22, Attah 18, Evans 8

NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Martin 21, Lasker 20, Smith 19

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