FAB Flournoy has praised his young guns for a valiant display at Leicester in midweek, saying their performance has helped Newcastle Eagles prepare for the forthcoming play-offs.
Having already clinched the BBL league title with four games to spare, Eagles coach Flournoy decided to rest some of his weary first-team regulars and give some of his promising youngsters a shot at the big time. Simon Stewart, Jack Thompson and Jack Wilson all received their BBL baptism and acquitted themselves well despite the 81-68 loss to the Riders.
Having already been crowned as champions, this was effectively a dead rubber for the Eagles.
However, Flournoy needed to know what he had in reserve should injuries befall his squad during the forthcoming play-offs.
With Newcastle having won three our of the four trophies available this season, all eyes will be on them to see if they can repeat their clean sweep of 2006.
If injuries did come into play come play-off time, then Flournoy now knows he has players capable of stepping into the breach.
He said: “The young guys played well at times during the Leicester game.
“Late in the second and fourth quarters they did well but the start of them they were a bit slow off the mark.
“However they became extremely better during the game.
“This was a great opportunity to get them over any feelings of being scared or nervous about playing on the big stage.
“Plus they also had a decent amount of minutes of game time as well as carrying extra responsibility on court which the more experienced regulars would usually have.
“This was useful because, having got all the nerves and excitement out of the way, should I need to call upon them in the play-offs they can step on the court and ease into the situation.”
For Flournoy, this week has probably been one of the strangest in his coaching career.
Having won the title a week last Wednesday, tonight’s home clash against Cheshire Jets and Sunday’s trip to Guildford Heat will ensure the Eagles will have played the last four matches of the season knowing full well they cannot finish any lower than first.
However, this weekend’s double-header could be potential dress rehearsals for a play-off quarter-final with Cheshire or Guildford both being in line to face the Eagles.
Flournoy, though, is not bothered about who he will be facing as, whoever they draw, Newcastle can expect a tough battle regardless.
He added: “To be honest I am not bothered about who finishes sixth, seventh or eighth in the BBL table.
“We have done what had to do and finished first. The play-off draw takes care of itself. One thing we can count on is that, whoever we play, we will have a tough encounter.
“Throw in the fact that, unlike the league or the other two cup competition, the play-offs – with the exception of the final – is two-legged.
“There is also the fact that, given we have won all three of the competitions which have been played for so far, there will be a determination to stop us winning the last one.
“For the other teams, the play-offs will be their last stand.”