Photo credit: Keith Hunt
Worcester Wolves’ coach Paul James admitted that his side have a considerable task ahead of them if they are to advance to the BBL Playoff Final at London’s O2 Arena.
With twelve minutes left in Wednesday’s first leg semi-final at Newcastle Eagles the tie was still poised with Wolves trailing, but remaining in contention, at 69-76. But by the end of the evening Worcester’s inability to penetrate their host’s defences saw Newcastle spring to a commanding 105-86 advantage.
“We’ve dug ourselves a hole,” said James. “Newcastle did a really good job of taking us out of our rhythm.
“We let things slip away from us in the second half with too many turnovers and too many rushed shots, while virtually every play Newcastle ran paid off.”
Eagles’ forward Scott Martin opened the scoring with a three-pointer, a portent of what would soon follow as Wolves cowered under a barrage of outside shots. By the close of the first quarter Newcastle were ahead 23-18, with Martin’s eight points twice the total of any Worcester player.
Trevor Setty and Ashton Khan sparked into life in the second period, with Maurice Walker also making an impact close to the basket. But with Martin and his team mate Deondre Parks sinking half a dozen triples between them, Newcastle were able to stay in front at 53-49.
Worcester’s last bright spot of the evening came at three minutes left in the third period when Marek Klassen forced a turnover and jabbed the ball to Jermel Kennedy for a slam dunk. A spell of careless ball-handling over the rest of the quarter was seized upon by Eagles to extend their lead to 81-70.
Each time Wolves’ attackers neared the hoop they were quickly repelled by a swarm of defenders. Hurried long-distance shots would too often go astray, gifting Newcastle repeated opportunities for breakaway points and a substantial cushion to carry forward to the return encounter.
Walker led the Wolves’ scorers with 19 points, followed by Kennedy on 15 points.
The second leg takes place this Friday (7.30) at the University of Worcester Arena.
“It’ll be a big ask, but there is still forty minutes to play,” added James. “Newcastle shot incredibly well today while we didn’t. They’ll find it hard to repeat that on Friday. We need to get back to sharing the ball and playing as a team. To win by twenty will be tough, but if we can pull back four or five points each quarter we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Tickets for the game available here