NEWCASTLE Eagles returned to action after a two-week absence and blew away the cobwebs with a demolition of Cheshire – a club in turmoil whose off-court problems are of greater concern than this entirely predictable rout.
Short-handed, in extreme financial difficulty and currently being supported by the league’s hierarchy, it was not exactly surprising that the Eagles managed to breeze past the struggling visitors without the need to change up from a decidedly pedestrian first gear.
While some may have viewed this contest as a potential banana-skin ahead of the tip-off, it proved to be little more than a mediocre workout more akin to a practice session for the hosts, who dominated from tip to buzzer.
Darius Defoe was the standout performer for the Eagles, finishing with a double-double of 19 points and 13 . He was well supported by a number of his team-mates who produced nice cameos, including two from bench duo Anthony Martin and Joel Madourie.
With the first leg of the BBL Cup semi-final at Plymouth Raiders tomorrow to consider, head coach Fab Flournoy and his assistant Dave Forrester probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with proceedings.
Ordinarily, it would have been a real blessing to be afforded the luxury of potentially resting their big-hitters, but having spent the previous fortnight without a game due to a frustrating gap in the fixture list, going to Devon under-cooked was probably more of a concern than fatigue.
Perhaps this was why they decided to rotate everyone with regularity, and that was bad news for a threadbare Cheshire roster which contained the 43 year-old, ex-Eagles favourite Shawn Myers and former Durham Wildcats forward Chris Pearce.
With the contest having been delayed due to some tardy timekeeping by one of the match officials, it just delayed the inevitable as the Eagles set about the task in hand, storming into a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter at 23-13.
When Kareem Maddox then subsequently threw down a thunderous dunk shortly ahead of the interval, it rammed home the superiority of Flournoy’s men, who increased their advantage to 45-23 and wrap up the win before half-time had even arrived.
In truth, the Eagles weren’t even at their slick best. They could hardly make a shot from three-point range and yet rather frighteningly they still found themselves in an unassailable position and desperately looking for a reason to maintain their intensity. A few accusations of potentially wayward elbows by Myers and the ever-feisty attitude of Pearce managed to just about keep the game interesting, as the Eagles gradually rotated more and more of their bench.
Even then, it didn’t affect the scoreline in any significant way as the game petered out long before the final buzzer had sounded. And, when it did, thoughts were already turning towards more pressing matters in Plymouth, and the task of ensuring a positive result is brought back to Tyneside for the second leg at Sport Central on Friday.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Defoe 19, Smith 18, Maddox 14.
CHESHIRE JETS: Marks 17, Myers 13, Bland 12