The atmosphere at the Metro Radio Arena was no less electric and I was automatically transported back 10 years (and not just because the DJ appeared to possess no current music!)
I was back to British Basketball’s Golden Years, with Mike Burton and Billy Mims on the sidelines (and sometimes on court!) and packed arenas at every match, not to mention Wembley – the ultimate venue for the Championships, just like Britain’s National pastime!
Though the years have changed the face of the BBL, nothing can diminish the fighting spirit of the players, fans and team staff. The same spirit is matched by the Eagle’s supporters who regularly sell out the Arena.
The last time I was here I could barely see over the people in front of me, and suddenly the excitement takes me, there are a mere 10 seconds until tip off.
Then it begins, I had forgotten how fast this game is, and the first two baskets are scored within a minute and a half! The familiar old chants of “Defence” and “Lets Go Eagles, Lets Go” ring in my ears, and I’m happy that some things never change!
The Eagles are up to the basket 4, 5, 6 times with outstanding 3 pointers and superb slam dunks. Lynard Stewart is awesome for the Eagles.
With less than a minute to go on the first quarter, the Jets are trailing by 12 points, when TJ Walker makes a fantastic fade-away clinching a much needed 2 points. By now my heart is pounding, my adrenaline is pumping and I’m wondering why I’ve left it 10 years!
Into the second quarter and Cheshire just don’t seem to be able to get a foothold on The Eagles! In contrast, The Eagles are storming the net, defending impeccably and doing their supporters proud!
Cheshire have a chance to redeem some points with two foul shots, but miss them both! After a time out, Olu Babalola scores two points for the Eagles, and the situation becomes desperate for The Jets.
Shaun Myers for The Jets makes two foul shots, but almost immediately a whistle is blown at Newcastle’s end. With four minutes to go, two more foul shots are made by Newcastle.
The chance for a fantastic rebound is missed by Cheshire, but they redeem both points as foul shots a few seconds later. TJ Walker again makes two shots, but the Cheshire fans are NOT happy as their team gets called for travelling with just 2:35 left in the half.
This game is moving quickly, Newcastle are glued to their men, so it is no surprise that, with minute and a half on the clock, The Jets are 16 points down; even less surprising is the fact that The Eagles break the half century less than 30 seconds later.
All Cheshire can do is try to run down the opposition’s shot clock – unsuccessfully. More hopes are dashed as Obazuaye misses two foul shots. The end of the half and Newcastle are on a comfortable 51, with Cheshire lagging on 35!
Unfortunately, due to a severe lack of refreshment stands per head of audience, I missed the first four minutes of the second half, but was not entirely surprised to see that the gap had widened to 25 points, 69-44. Newcastle have control for most of the quarter, but at last, with 2:23 on the clock, Cheshire finally break the 50 point mark, unfortunately, just a second later, Newcastle sink their 77th point!
I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of British Basketball, but one player I do know is the aptly named Fabulous Flournoy, The Eagles’ number 20. He is all over the court, playing tight defence on his man.
He has an impressive resumé, as well as being part of the English National Team who brought back the Bronze from the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, he has a string of honours including BBL Coach of the Season, 2004 – 2005 AND 2005-2006 and Sport England North East Coach of The Year 2006.
Fab has also served as player/coach for the Eagles since 2002 and his skill in this capacity shows, The Eagles clearly have the edge over The Jets.
In the dying seconds of the third quarter Cheshire manage another 2 pointer, but they will need to pull out all the stops – actually, I think the word miracle would be apt here – if they are to clinch this quarter final.
The fourth quarter is sadly more of the same, there are pile ups down at the Cheshire end and a foul on Darius Defoe, who misses both shots, but Cheshire still can’t take the opportunity to take it down and make the basket. Both teams are fumbling, but unfortunately, Cheshire is fumbling more, and Newcastle are picking up the slack, making the steals and powering down the court to 2 pointer after 3 pointer, slam dunk after rebound.
There is 4:55 left in this game and The Jets just can’t close the gap. Richard Murphy takes and makes a 3 pointer and a valiant defensive stand followed by travelling by Newcastle sends the ball down to Cheshire’s end again.
Regrettably with 2:44 on the clock, The Jets are clumsy, fumbling and unable to match The Eagle’s power, or their skill. In a final attempt at the title, Myers for the Jets, takes a nice rebound with 1:58 on the clock and hangs on the rim for a fantastic slam dunk, that’s the kind of play we want to see. Unfortunately, it is followed, less than a minute later, by an unceremonious airball, answered by the Eagles’ Babalola with a three pointer.
Myers gets a three pointer of his own, but it is too little too late. This was a one horse race and the Eagles are going to the Semi Finals beating The Jets 96 to 79.
The Cheshire fans, dejected, stand and cheer their defeated team, but are immediately drowned out by the 2000+ strong Eagles contingent complete with resident drummer, and enthusiastic, if misguided DJ.
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