Newcastle Eagles – The road to BBL Trophy success
Despite the abrupt end to the BBL season without any certain final answer as to who has won the 2019-20 championship, the Newcastle Eagles finished the premature season with silverware: picking up their 7th BBL trophy as they continue as the most decorated team in British basketball history.
First round: Newcastle Eagles 133 – 61 Dunfermline Reign
The Eagles got off to a flying start in their BBL Trophy campaign, annihilating the Scottish minnows by an astounding 72 points.
CJ Gettys scored Newcastle’s first points of the new decade by using his tall frame to score in the paint before Dunfermline replied with a quickfire three courtesy of Eric Potts.
Despite an early response from the Reign, the Eagles quickly gained the ascendancy and took a 33-16 lead going into the second quarter but with no Darius Defoe as the experienced Forward went down clutching his leg.
The second quarter saw more of the same from the BBL side as they went into the half with a 65-37 lead but no sign of giving up from the away side who had brought very good travelling support.
Within the third and fourth quarter Dunfermline’s fatigue had become apparent as the home side hit a century of points in the third quarter leading 100-54, before outscoring their opponents 33-7 in the fourth quarter to end the game with a final score of 133-61.
Quarter-final: Newcastle Eagles 86 – 79 Sheffield Sharks
Despite all the pressure and odds favouring a Sheffield win since they had a three game unbeaten run against the hosts, Newcastle battled hard in a tough win led by captain Rahmon Fletcher who scored 29 points as well as nine assists.
With Darius Defoe returning and a strong 23-20 start to the first quarter, the Eagles soared but once again their bad luck with injuries continued, losing Eddie Matthew and initially CJ Gettys to injury, with Gettys grabbing six points and four rebounds before limping off.
The second quarter saw the home side pick up momentum with Nick Schlitzer and Kai Williams finding their range from behind the arc putting the team in black 13 points up 47-34 going into half-time and with CJ Gettys returning, things looked plain-sailing for the side in black.
A dominant rebounding display in the third quarter and an impressive start to the fourth for the South Yorkshire side saw them draw level at 63-63 and unnerve their opponents.
Order soon returned with a scintillating 12-0 run from the North Eastern side allowing them breathing space as they advanced to the Semi-finals by winning this fixture 86-79.
Semi-final leg 1: Cheshire Phoenix 79 – 88 Newcastle Eagles
For the second time consecutively in the 2019/20 competition, Newcastle were facing a team who had beaten them in their last meeting but once again overcame tough opponents with a perfect performance from everybody and allowed them to put one foot into the finals.
The first quarter seemed to forecast a very tight contest with both sides switching the lead multiple times and the biggest lead never surpassing four points but the home side finished the first quarter 22-20 up.
The travelling side were in danger of letting the hosts run away in the second quarter with an 8-0 run midway through before Rahmon Fletcher led a 9-0 run to give 44-43 to end the half.
Newcastle then started the third quarter with a 10-5 start inspired by Fletcher once again as well as pinpoint shooting from Nick Schlitzer.
After a solid start to the third quarter the away side never looked back playing great defensively and taking the biggest lead of the match 71-60 through the final quarter with multiple three’s from Rodney Glasgow Jnr and Will Saunders.
Both sides seemed to trade baskets after that but the Eagles finished their solid performance with an impressive 88-79 win.
Semi-final leg 2: Newcastle Eagles 67 (155) – 75 (154) Cheshire Phoenix
The Eagles were without any silverware for three years, which is considered a drought in their franchise’s recent history and the pressure of getting to the final nearly sunk their hopes to reach the final only to escape late defeat by a missed shot.
There was no sign of crumbling under pressure from the hosts early on as their fluid basketball and long range shooting from Sade Aded-Hussein eased the home side into the game.
With a turn of momentum the visitors hit back to end the first quarter 19-14 up as they clawed back the first leg deficit very quickly.
The second quarter mirrored the first as Newcastle went on a 7-0 run and once again took the lead in this match, but once again Cheshire fought back and went into the break 38-36 down.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright led the away side in an attempt to mount a comeback scoring two free throws to go into the final 10 minutes at 54 apiece.
Cheshire took control of the fourth quarter winning the fourth quarter 21-13 and a nervy Eagles Community Arena witnessed clutch blocks by Aded-Hussain before Jackson-Cartwright had the chance to send the visitors to the final only to miss from three-point range.
BBL Trophy final: Newcastle Eagles 96 – 94 Team Solent Kestrels
After an easy first round for the Eagles, every game from there on out was a heart racing affair and the final was no different. This time the game went to overtime but the Eagles prevailed lead by Fletcher who had another 29 point game as well as Darius Defoe’s 23 points and 11 rebounds but most impressively CJ Gettys’ 23 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists on his return from injury.
Newcastle were without Mike Morsell, Nick Schlitzer and Sade Aded-Hussein due to fear of the Coronavirus, making them the underdog going into the match but Fletcher’s 19 points in the first 20 minutes and took a 46-45 lead into the second half.
Ian MacLeod’s men led by 12 with 10 minutes to play but a 10-0 Solent run at the start of the fourth period set up a grandstand finish and with four seconds remaining Solent Kestrels forced overtime.
The North East side found themselves one point behind with a minute remaining before Drew Lasker rebounded Defoe’s jump shot before putting it in the basket.
Trayvonn Wright missed Solent’s final shot in an attempt to send the game to a double overtime before Defoe made a big rebound and finished one of his free throws to finish the game 96-94 and it makes Defoe the most decorated player in the competitions history with seven wins in 17 seasons with the Eagles.