THE healing process started for a crestfallen Newcastle Eagles at Sport Central last night as they bounced back from last weekend’s BBL Cup Final despair with a convincing league success against Sheffield Sharks.
With Fab Flournoy and his players needing to get the bitter taste of their desperately disappointing display at the National Indoor Arena out of their mouths as quickly as possible, it was an added irritation the start of the game was delayed.
Perhaps the late arrival of the referees, whose travel arrangements were disrupted by the seasonal icy blast, simply added to the all-round frustration, meaning that when the action did eventually get under way the hosts were determined to ensure Sheffield felt the full backlash.
They stormed into a commanding 25-12 lead with Darius Defoe particularly impressive, and from that juncture there was only ever going to be one winner.
There was absolutely no way that Flournoy was going to settle for anything other than a prestige performance from his team.
With their defence particularly effective, the Eagles smothered most of the offence Sheffield threw at them, and that was very much the platform from which they extended their lead to 39-23 as Joe Chapman continued his hot shooting form with successive triples.
By half-time, the home side were still in complete control at 48-33, although Sharks did cut the deficit slightly as former long-serving Eagles captain Andrew Bridge returned to sink a buzzer-beating score against his ex-employers.
This was to prove a rare bright spot for the visitors, and when the Eagles re-emerged from the locker rooms they seemed just as focused and determined as they were at tip-off when they didn’t hold a substantial lead.
During the third quarter, the Eagles continued to play like a team trying to erase the memory of a previous defeat, and this time around it was a Newcastle player who scored on the buzzer as Ant Martin sealed a score to put his team 73-52 ahead.
Chapman continued to light it up from long range, just as he did last Sunday, albeit in vain. This time, his individual effort was complemented by a positive result and the Eagles fans enjoyed him sinking a triple right in the face of his previous backcourt partner Bridge.
In fact it was the devastating three-point shooting of the hosts which was the story of the game. While the Sharks perimeter defence was quite woeful to say the least, the Eagles still had to make their shots to take full advantage, and they certainly did that to great effect. They were red hot and converted a terrific 15 three-pointers, a number of which helped propel Chapman to a sparkling 41 points. He was well supported by Charles Smith, who landed a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Ultimately this first win will have done little to heal the gaping wound of last Sunday. That will only happen when a piece of silverware is delivered.
The BBL Trophy will be next on the agenda but in the meantime, it was important the Eagles find league victories – and especially with their new nemesis Leicester Riders as their main rivals.
Newcastle: Chapman 41, Smith 22, Defoe 12.
Sheffield: Jemison 18, Holmes 18, Tuck 13.