Sheffield Sharks 94 Newcastle Eagles 92
Just days after being dumped out of the BBL Trophy, Newcastle Eagles received a major blow to their league title aspirations after sustaining an agonising and stomach-churning loss to Sheffield Sharks last night.
Fab Flournoy and his players were denied what would have been a superb double celebration after a late collapse, which resulted in Sharks’ guard BJ Holmes firing the killer-blow with a last ditch three-pointer that was driven like a dagger through Eagles’ hearts.
With just four minutes remaining, the Eagles were in control and had an 11-point lead.
The champagne corks were ready to pop for Flournoy, who had racked up yet another major record by surpassing the club record for assists, previously held by his close friend and Hall of Famer, TJ Walker.
Prior to the capitulation during crunch time and the decisive action of Holmes, the travelling fans had witnessed Flournoy grab nine assists and move on to 1,475 to add yet another line to his stellar and unparalleled list of accomplishments.
However, in light of this latest setback to the clubs’ chances of silverware, Flournoy isn’t likely to take much solace in his achievement during the short term, as impressive as it is. Without the win he craved, it will feel somewhat hollow – even if defeat shouldn’t truly detract from it. Even the mitigation of not being able to call upon the services of influential centre Darius Defoe was diluted by the fact that Sharks themselves were without both Jeremie Simmons and Demetrius Jemison.
There had been very little to separate both teams in a relatively even-handed opening, with no side able to make a hugely decisive early burst and Sharks’ Olu Babalola keeping the teams locked on 21-21 with a basket against his ex-employers. However, Malik Cooke was proving hard to stop and the Eagles’ dangerman put his team 45-39 in front at the interval by wrapping up 15 first-half points.
Sharks again came roaring back when the action resumed and BJ Holmes put the home side in front at 51-50, only for Drew Lasker to come alive for the Eagles who restored a six-point lead heading into the last ten minutes.
Their good work continued and when Paul Gause nailed a big triple early in the fourth quarter, it opened up a double-digit advantage.
Then, when Scott Martin made it 85-74, it looked like the Eagles would inevitably see it through. But, they left the door open and a 15-3 run by Sharks led to Holmes putting them in front at 89-88 with less than 30 seconds remaining.
The visitors did then respond to regain the lead in the closing seconds, Holmes had the last word.
Backcourt trio Malik Cooke, Drew Lasker and Paul Gause combined for 59 points, but it was to no avail and things don’t get any easier for Flournoy and his team, with a game at league leaders Worcester Wolves next up on Friday night.
Sheffield: Holmes 23, Babalola 16, Tuck 14
Newcastle: Cooke 22, Gause 20 Lasker 17