Newcastle Eagles v Cheshire Friday, 23rd November
Wednesday, 21st November, 2012
Newcastle Eagles v Cheshire
Friday 23 November 2012
Sport Central (19:30)
Newcastle Eagles will look to narrow the gap at the top of the BBL Championship table when they host Cheshire on Friday evening.
With the Eagles having a blank weekend, Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders moved two wins clear at the top of the table, but Eagles are still in second place with an 8-1 record and two games in hand over the leaders. Meanwhile, Cheshire's last-gasp win against Manchester Giants
on Sunday lifted them up to eighth in the table.
Newcastle won two of the three BBL Championship games between the teams last season, although Cheshire's win came after they had sealed the title, but the Northgate Arena side shocked the Eagles in the play-off semi-final first leg with a 99-89 road victory before the eventual champions hit back in the return leg with a 79-64 win to seal a place in the final.
Eagles' shooting guard Joe Chapman was happy to have last weekend off, but is now looking for his side to put together a good run: "It was great to have the break, we've got a lot of back-to-backs coming up, so it's important to rest up before we get back into it.
"It's gone pretty well so far. The loss against Leicester was good for us in many ways. I made us realise that we had to come out and be more aggressive, that we needed to improve and that we have to show up for every game."
Chapman has little doubt that Cheshire captain Chez Marks is key to the visiting side: "They have Chez, he's the guy we need to worry about! They've just beaten Manchester and they'll come in on a high. They're battling just to be here on a week to week basis. Hats off to them for performing as well as they are. We won't take them for granted, they'll be hungry, and we have to match that.
"Cheshire's guard/forward Chris Pearce is enjoying something of a trip down Memory Lane at the moment: "Chester versus Giants was the first BBL game I ever watched, at the launch of the Hoops Basketball Centre, in my hometown of Barrow in 1998. This weekend is a welcome trip to the North East, where I previously worked for the Eagles and I played for Sunday's visitors Durham too. It's going full circle!"
Pearce is in no doubt about the size of the challenge facing his Cheshire team: "Eagles have been so successful throughout the years thanks to their ability to retain a strong core of some of the most talented players in the league. With players like Charles [Smith, pictured], Darius [Defoe] and Fab considered non-imports, they consistently build strong seven-man rotations every year, and this year is no different.
"Charles is one of the best players I have seen in the BBL, and Joe Chapman seems to get hot from outside every game at some point. We know we are in for a tough, physical battle on Friday."
Eagles' player-coach Fab Flournoy isn't taking Cheshire lightly, either: "Cheshire have played through a lot of adversity this year. Whilst it's nice to add another person to the BBL player coach community I am sure it's not something Chez would have expected only a few weeks ago. That said he is playing some superb basketball and their performance at Leicester and win against Manchester last week demonstrates that we cannot overlook them.
"We will be coming back from a bye week and will have to deal with rust issues but hopefully will be able to raise our intensity from the word go. Chez and Shawn [Myers] obviously know what's expected but all their guys have stepped up big time so far."