A MAGNIFICENT 26 points and 20 rebounds from Kareem Maddox catapulted Newcastle Eagles to a terrific success at Surrey Heat to maintain the pressure on arch-rivals Leicester Riders at the top of the BBL Championship.
It was a timely contribution by the athletic Maddox, spearheading his depleted team by re-discovering the rich vein of form shown earlier in the season which culminated in being handed Player of the Month accolades.
Still without the services of long-term injury victim Damon Huffman and with Fab Flournoy also ruled out, fifth place Heat posed a potentially significant threat to the Eagles – especially having bolstered their roster with the re-signing of Travis Holmes.
However, led by both Maddox and veteran Charles Smith – who poured in 33 points – the visitors managed to return home from Surrey Sports Park with a valuable victory.
Even if their sense of satisfaction wasn’t heightened when news filtered through of leaders Leicester Riders having scraped a narrow win at Glasgow, it remained a satisfying trip back to Tyneside.
It was a physical game from the tip-off, an early elbow to the face of Darius Defoe reminding the Eagles they would have to stand toe-to-toe with their opponents if they wanted to secure successive road wins.
Flournoy and his players started with real purpose and stormed into a 22-14 lead, only for the home side to post a run of nine points without reply which reeled the Eagles back in. A
By the interval, though, they held a handy 44-38 advantage.
The only concern for the Eagles was that, without Huffman and Flournoy, they needed all of their other big-hitters to be on-song.
Joe Chapman was again struggling and that trend would continue, the guard eventually finishing with an eye-watering zero points from eight long-range attempts.
That placed even more emphasis on Defoe and point-guard Ant Martin, who just like in the previous game at Plymouth, did a fine job with an efficient and mature team-orientated performance.
This helped the Eagles to take control in the second-half, although it wasn’t until the last quarter when they made the decisive game-winning break. Holding a narrow 66-64 advantage, the outcome was still hanging in the balance until the Heat began to get sloppy.
Capitalising on consecutive Heat errors to convert fast-break scores, the Eagles managed to move 75-65 ahead with what proved to be the critical passage of the game and once the double-digit lead was established, it never looked like being relinquished.
With wins at Plymouth and now Surrey under their belts, the Eagles are continuing the process of redemption in the wake of their BBL Trophy quarter-final exit and recent home loss to Cheshire.
They face both clubs again on home soil during coming weeks in what is by far the most hectic part of the campaign, and the need to have Flournoy and Huffman back into the fold and fully fit has never been so great.
Surrey Heat: F Holmes 20, T Holmes 12, Simek 10.
Newcastle Eagles: Smith 33, Maddox 26, Defoe 11, Martin 11.