The second-seeded Newcastle Eagles displayed their dominance as they hammered out a convincing 76-68 win over the One Health Sharks Sheffield in the first leg of their semifinals series on Friday at the Sports Central.
Fab Flournoy went down with an injury, but Drew Lasker stepped up big time as he finished with 29 huge points, making up for the loss of their player coach, who went down with a hamstring injury that could end his season.
“I have to give credit to the coaching staff,” Lasker said after the game. “They have done a great job in terms of adjusting the offence to make me more comfortable. They have made tweaks so the team can exploit my talents. The preparation was great this week and it paid off.”
Charles Smith and Reggie Jackson also had productive nights, scoring nine points each, helping the Eagles hold an eight-point advantage heading into the second-leg on Sunday in Sheffield.
“I think tomorrow has become the biggest game of my career,” said Lasker when asked about their second-leg showdown with the Eagles. “I am 40 minutes away from a championship game, and that is as close as I have ever been to winning silverware. It is going to be very scrappy again; I think that works better for us.”
The Sharks kept the game close, but a late fourth-quarter rally from the Eagles put them behind by 11 points, 74-63, with only three minutes left in the game. They never recovered, but they managed to trim the deficit heading into the second leg.
Olu Babalola had 17 points, while Marcus Stout added 15 points for the Sharks, who are no strangers in facing deficit heading into the second leg after erasing a 15-point deficit in the quarterfinals.