The Manchester Giants made a successful return to the National Basketball Performance Center for a New Years’ Day battle with club captain Rahmon Fletcher’s former team the Newcastle Eagles, resisting a late push to hold on for a hard-fought 99-97 win.


The Giants came into the fixture off a narrow 103-99 away defeat to their North West rivals Cheshire Phoenix on Friday night.

But there were no signs of the hosts’ dwelling on that loss, as center Legend Robertin backed up Hasahn French for an easy layup to secure the Giants’ first bucket of the game.

The Giants starting five were lights out from three early on with no signs of the long range issues seen in the last few games of 2022, as Rahmon Fletcher, Tajh Green Dirk Williams and Anthony Roberson all made shots from beyond the arc in the opening four minutes of the game.

Vince Macaulay’s men shot out to an early ten-point lead causing Eagles’ coach Marc Steutel to call the first timeout of the game.

The visitors came out of the interval flying and a succession of big buckets from the BBL’s most decorated player Darius Defoe and American-Israeli point guard David Cohn swung the momentum of the game in the Eagles’ favour.

At the end of the opening quarter, a huge lead swing had taken place and the Eagles led the Giants 32-24.

Consecutive high effort plays including a smooth fadeaway jumper and a steal in transition by Lewis kept the Giants’ within single digits of the Tyneside outfit.

Macaulay’s side continued to chip away at the lead and hit a string of free throws to bring the deficit to two with 34 seconds to half-time.

And after a timeout was called by the home team up stepped Fletcher, isolating his opposite man and stringing a deep three to give the Giants a one-point lead at the half-time buzzer with the score at 56-55.

Nick Lewis led the team in scoring at the break, with 12 points off the bench.

The Canadian continued to offer excellent production in the second half, ending the game with a team-high 20 points.

The Giants’ team-oriented mindset was on show for the noisy Belle Vue crowd to see with Green, Lewis, Williams, Roberson and Fletcher all reaching double-digits in scoring in the third quarter.

A physical and-one layup from two-time BBL MVP Fletcher with three minutes to play stretched the Giants’ lead to eight points.

But mercurial Eagles guard Javion Hamlet refused to give the Giants’ a moment’s peace, as he sunk a string of clutch buckets down the stretch on his way to a 33-point, six-rebound and six-assist performance.

Roberson attacked the boards all night long for the Giants on his way to a double-double –  he ended the night with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Giants were much improved at the free throw line, swishing 17 of their 23 shots from the stripe – a statistic that will please Coach Macaulay – including some big makes in the closing minutes.

Head Coach Vince Macaulay said: ” Absolutely vitally important that we kicked off 2023 with a win. Every game is gonna be tough. You can’t look at teams, where they are in the league and all that stuff. You’ve just got to be prepared for a real physical encounter”. 

The hosts resisted the late scoring surge from the visitors to hold on for a narrow two-point victory in front of a packed NBPC crowd, getting their 2023 off to the best start possible.


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Words – Nathan Blackwood