STELLAR displays by forward duo Kareem Maddox and Darius Defoe helped Newcastle Eagles crush Cheshire Phoenix as the north-west club felt the full backlash of Fab Flournoy and his team trying to make amends for their woeful BBL Cup performance 48 hours earlier.
The very notion of the Eagles having to resume BBL Championship action had they blown their BBL Cup semi-final with Plymouth Raiders at the start of the weekend was unthinkable, since even doing so in the shadow of Friday’s near debacle was bad enough.
So, it was hardly surprising that, having narrowly escaped a potential hammer-blow of immeasurable proportions – which had led to candid, no-holds barred talks in the locker room – the Eagles came out fighting and determined to prove a point.
Throughout his time at the helm, Flournoy has always run a tight ship and demanded the highest standards.
So, having dropped way below what is deemed necessary at the most successful club in British Basketball League history, and almost seeing their BBL Cup hopes capsize, it was inevitable the players would look to take out their frustration on Cheshire.
Within a matter of minutes, this theory turned into reality as Charles Smith converted with a flurry of three-pointers as the Eagles ran riot to surge into a commanding 30-18 first quarter lead.
Cheshire may have resolved their off-court troubles and changed their name to Phoenix as part of the deal.
Rather than rising from the flames, however, they were expertly extinguished by the rampant visitors.
Phoenix made a better fist of things during the second quarter with Chez Marks back into the side but, after matching with the Eagles up until the interval, Newcastle turned on the style when the second half resumed.
Turning up the defensive intensity and re-discovering their offensive rhythm, they proved far too strong for the hosts, who couldn’t contain the dominant play of Maddox and Defoe inside.
The former racked up 27 points and 11 rebounds, while his team-mate added 15 points and 11 rebounds to expose the soft centre of a Cheshire team wondering what they had done to deserve the circumstances which left them facing a wounded Eagles side.
Aside from former Eagles forward Shaw Myers, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Chez Marks, who poured in 20 points, the home team were never at the races from tip to final buzzer and laboured throughout.
The big question now is whether this Eagles performance will hold much weight with Flournoy.
For while these kind of league wins are essential in the context of a long and hard season, there’s little doubt he will have been replaying Friday night’s abomination over and over in his mind on the trip back to Tyneside last night.
The New Yorker will be fully aware that, after losing at home to both Leicester and Plymouth, a vast improvement will be required for any future clashes with their main rivals for silverware this season.
Cheshire Phoenix: Marks 20, Bland 16, Myers 13.
Newcastle Eagles: Maddox 27, Smith 17, Huffman 15, Defoe 15.