Night to chris­ten sta­dium

Sunday Sun - - Basketball -

bas­ket­ball ex­pert to know a tight game was brew­ing. It was, though, a crowd of Ea­gles and Bri­tish Bas­ket­ball League fans.

They cheered in all the right places, and the vol­ume cranked up as the game went on. Each roar, groan, ooh and aah re­flected the num­ber of points the Ea­gles landed or missed, the skill level and bal­ance of the game.

The sur­round­ings added to the drama, the back­board light­ing up like a Christ­mas tree when Rah­mon Fletcher found the net from the open­ing quar­ter’s fi­nal play.

When the ref­eree blew his whis­tle with less than five min­utes re­main­ing to con­sult the tech­ni­cal bench, it was like the vol­ume was switched off while sup­port­ers awaited the ver­dict.

The scourge of the modern sports event was still there when the sec­ond half be­gan with most of the posh seats empty, but in fair­ness there was no in­di­ca­tion to those around the hos­pi­tal­ity ta­bles that the game had restarted.

The clos­ing stages be­came in­creas­ingly fraught af­ter Kyle Wil­liams bril­liantly closed New­cas­tle’s deficit to 71-72.

Stalk­ing the side­line, in­jured 45-year-old player-coach Flournoy went apoplec­tic when Wil­liams paused to look for sup­port, urg­ing him down the line, from where he won two free throws. He hit the rim, then landed the sec­ond.

Wil­liams lev­elled at 78-78 with 2.35 min­utes to play.

The fu­ri­ous wav­ing and whistling to put Ni­cholas Donte off his free throw and the cheer when he missed were any­thing but Corinthian, but showed the pas­sion the Arena could gen­er­ate. He sunk his next at­tempt, and the lead was never again sur­ren­dered.

Donte pick­ing up six late free throws as the Ea­gles got in­creas­ingly des­per­ate. By the end, Flournoy was wan­der­ing up and down the line, arms dis­con­so­lately folded.

Once it was over, the dis­man­tling be­gan, con­vert­ing to com­mu­nity mode for 600 or so more Arena de­buts in Satur­day’s ju­nior league matches. It had been a proper night’s bas­ket­ball at a proper bas­ket­ball arena.

■ Rah­mon Fletcher Ea­gles v Raiders

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