The Manchester Giants ground the Newcastle Eagles as they start the new year with a 88-82 win.
Ian McLeod’s Newcastle Eagles took the long trip to Manchester to play the Giants to kick off the new year in a game that was nothing short of a spectacle.
Fletcher finds Darius Dafoe on a backdoor cut to start tonight’s match and see the eagles draw first blood. The Giants instantaneously answered back with a three from Dan Clark and later on provided Jamell Anderson with a touchdown pass from one end of the court to the other. Soon enough these two northern outfits were underway. Fouls were flying in early and often throughout the first quarter with both teams racking up 8 fouls between them with Newcastle entering the penalty with a considerable amount of time left. Physicality coupled with end to end action made the opening 10 minutes entertaining for any fan or neutral with the majority of the quarter being close with a single possession to split the two as Newcastle took the quarter on the final possession from a buzzer beater to make it 20-23.
The fouls seemed to keep going as Manchester picked up 5 fouls in the space of 5 minutes. Even though Manchester weren’t able to take the lead in the quarter they managed to consistently keep within touching distance of their adversary for most of the quarter, drawing level with 3 minutes left after an offensive rebound from Will Saunders who then brought it out beyond the arc and converted the turnaround 3. Lloyd Gardner’s men managed to gain the lead for the first time in the quarter in the final minute of play when stellar ball movement from every Giants player on the court freed up Jordan Whelan for a baseline 3 to make it 40-38 Giants the first half finishing all even with both teams on 40 a piece.
Still more to play as another backdoor cut and reverse lay up gets us underway but this time for the Manchester giants with Tyrik “The Magic Man” Armstrong on the finish. Manchester were not about to let up their momentum as Dan Clark spins top of the key and produces a signature statue of liberty dunk sending the crowd into a frenzy. Great offense becomes great defence and this was the order of business with the giants playing suffocating defence and forcing difficult shots up. Dan Clark took it one step further and put in an impressive third quarter performance on both ends of the court with multiple makes from inside the paint and a block on the defensive end as well. Manchester consistently cut to the basket and brutalised the paint punishing the Eagles interior defence and it shows as they led 67-63 as both teams headed into the final quarter
After a near half court make at the end of the third, Will Saunders makes up for the points with a trio of free throws and extends the giants lead back out to 5. Further extended by a Jordan Whelan three from way beyond the three point line. Will Saunders, not to be upstaged, produces a three of his own on the very next possession. The fouls were thick and fast for the entirety of tonight’s game with whopping 46 fouls between both sides, 23 fouls per team. Nevertheless though, after a slow start offensively, The Giants ran out victors 88-82.
Dan Clark had a night to remember once again, leading the Giants in scoring with 19 points and picking up a double double with 11 rebounds. He also had a block and a pair of dunks that got the crowd on their feet. Will Saunders and Tyrik Armstrong combined for 32 points between them, 16 points a piece for both players with the former flirting with a double double of his own with 8 rebounds and the latter with 5 assists and a trio of steals.
Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said: “Overall good team performance from us, lots of guys from the roster stepped up. You said the word grit and that’s what we’ve been using aswell it’s the last couple of games coming off Christmas, obviously Martaveous leaving us, has changed the dynamic he was a big player for us. He was a great Character and great person in the group. It’ disappointing that he’s had to make that decision but that means other guys will step into the void”.
The Giants are away in their next fixture and their first fixture in the BBL Trophy as they travel over the Pennines to face Abita Lyons and his Sheffield Sharks at the Ponds Forge on January 9th.
Words – Michael Blain
Photo – AllSportsPhotography