FORWARD duo Kareem Maddox and Darius Defoe provided the backbone of a commanding Newcastle Eagles display at Sport Central last night as they handed fans an early festive treat with a swashbuckling 88-67 success against Manchester Giants, writes PAUL NILSEN.
Both players continued their impressive recent form to register double-doubles, with Maddox contributing 14 points and 18 rebounds, and Defoe adding 18 points and 12 boards to help consolidate the club’s position at the top of the table.
After being hammered on their last visit to Sport Central, the Giants had initially shown a real intent to record an improved display right from the tip-off, with some truly excellent work at both ends of the court.
Looking to exploit fast-break opportunities at every opportunity and making some tough three-pointers, Giants were on their mettle from the outset and made scoring difficult for the hosts.
They also threw down some nice dunks too, which will have impressed former Eagles high flier Kadiri Richard sitting courtside and also Andy Thomson, who of course has represented both clubs during his career.
The vibrant opening from the Giants handed them a 17-6 advantage and it was an early warning to the Eagles that they could have a real battle on their hands and especially with Charles Smith still on the injured list.
But, with Damon Huffman still on fire from long range, he helped the hosts to get a foothold in the game with a couple of triples, meaning by the end of the first quarter, they had reeled the visitors back to within two points at 19-17.
However, it was the defensive squeeze the Eagles put on the visitors which was most telling. The Giants could only manage a solitary point in a mammoth seven-minute drought either side of the first and second quarter break.
This put the Eagles into the ascendency at 26-22, although the Giants did score seven of the next eight points, which led to Fab Flournoy calling a time-out to make some adjustments. It worked a treat as Joe Chapman handed off a beautiful assist to Defoe for a dunk before then draining a triple, while Huffman sank a three-pointer on the buzzer to put the Eagles 41-38 ahead.
Perhaps largely unnoticed was the first-half work of Maddox who had a near double-double, and he would easily complete that feat when he stepped back onto the floor – as would Defoe.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before the Eagles were in complete control at 55-44 after another dunk by Defoe, which underlined their new-found superiority. From that point onwards, it was one-way traffic as the Giants’ good work during the opening seven or eight minutes of the game seemed but a distant memory.
And there was a sense of déjà vu as they imploded in similar fashion to their previous trip to Tyneside. In addition to the fine work of Defoe and Maddox under the basket, Flournoy played a nice cameo and, most importantly, Chapman looked much more like the great player he is with an all-action 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Chapman 20, Defoe 18, Huffman 17..
MANCHESTER GIANTS: Eaves 15, Watts 10, Aliu 9.