High flying Eagles drop by the Tank – Round 26 previewed

The DBL Sharks Sheffield welcome the highly-decorated Newcastle Eagles to the EIS this Friday as the tough fixtures continue to roll in thick and fast. The Eagles are currently second in the BBL table having played a game more than leaders Leicester and holding a 19-5 record. Like the Sharks, the Eagles fell to a resurgent Cheshire Phoenix last weekend and come to the EIS attempting to hang on to the Riders (21-2) shirt-tails. The Sharks put up a very effective display against Glasgow last Friday but as mentioned fell to Cheshire on Sunday and will be looking to lay down another marker against the leviathans of the North East.

Despite many challenges, Eagles’ Coach Fab Flournoy has assembled another talented roster for the campaign. Built around a solid core, they have been troubled with injuries and absences but continue to be Leicester Riders main challenger for the title. Indeed, Flournoy’s return to the court after his own major injury has been one of their successes of the season and the measure of his stature in British basketball was capped by his recent award of the MBE. They lost 89-103 to Cheshire last weekend, shorn of influential veteran forward Darius Defoe but given the ‘Nix resurgence since Coaching changes and the return of guard Mike DiNunno, too much shouldn’t be read into this result. Prior to that they beat Glasgow (92-85) and Bristol (108-94) so it is clear that there is still much to come from Flournoy’s men. Reigning MVP Rahmon Fletcher has if anything, surpassed his performances from 2015-16, putting up 20.17 points per game in the Championship alongside 6.29 assists per game. Four year veteran Scott Martin weighs in with 15.7 points per game and 6.43 rebounds and rookie American guard Deondre Parks has proved to be value for money with 18.26 points per game. Of course, there is a solid base behind these higher scorers. The old war horse Defoe (13.7 ppg 7.7 rpg), Orlan Jackman (12 ppg 7.74 rpg) and Andrew Lasker (9.78 ppg) contribute solidly and there is further reliable back-up in the shape of Christian Behrens and Joe Hart with Flournoy still able to fully influence events on court as well as off. They may not be top of the league currently but Newcastle are still the benchmark that all BBL clubs aim for and any victory over them is one that is cherished long in the memory. Sharks fans will remember the dramatic BJ Holmes buzzer-beater that secured a 94-92 win back in 2014 such is the yearning for a win over the Geordies. That is the measure of what it means to take on the Eagles and win, no matter how close it is.

It was a supremely polished performance from the Sharks to beat Glasgow 98-90 at the EIS last Friday. Sixty five points were poured in during a thrilling final quarter that the Rocks equally played their part in. Jordan Davis earned All Star Five plaudits for his 20 point, 6 rebound, 8 assist statline and forward Tony Wroblicky deserved his place from the bench for another very consistent display. The Sharks fell victim to Cheshire on Sunday by 100-83; the ‘Nix being led by 29 points, 9 assists and 5 steals from Mike DiNunno. That the ‘Nix beat both Newcastle and the Sharks on the same weekend possibly says more of their dramatic improvement since DiNunno’s return rather than huge failings of the other two sides. Of concern to the Sharks will be the nasty fall that Rashawn Rembert suffered in Ellesmere Port and it remains to be seen how his fitness is come the weekend. A tough March schedule is rounded off by the Eagles, Surrey (March 26th) and Glasgow again (March 31st in front of the TV cameras). All three very tough games for differing reasons and proof that this season’s BBL is full of unpredictability and will remain so to the very end.

There is something special about a Sharks – Eagles clash and this coming Friday 17th March in the EIS will be no different! The homepage ticket link is your one stop shop to claim your seat for another top night of BBL basketball action. The atmosphere was off the scale last Friday when we beat the Rocks – we need the SharkNation to follow that up with another big one this weekend! We tip at 7.30pm – your DBL Sharks Sheffield need you!

Image: Sharks Team Photographers