Worcester Wolves came close to subjecting Newcastle Eagles, the leaders of the British Basketball League, to their first defeat of the season on Friday.
An already healthy 51-42 half-time Worcester advantage accelerated out to an even more impressive 78-59 as the final quarter approached.
However, a blistering thirteen-point tear switched momentum in Eagles favour. By four minutes remaining the visiting Wolves had fallen 84-86 behind, on their way to an eventual 96-101 defeat.
Coach Paul James saw both good and bad in his team’s display, saying: “Going into the last part of the game we looked composed and in control. On another night, against almost any other team than Newcastle, a nineteen-point lead should have been enough.
“But then Newcastle had a huge final quarter and we found out that they are as strong as ever this year. We stopped doing what had got us so far ahead and got pressured into some crazy shots and into attempting crazy passes through traffic.
“There were positives in that we had initially taken charge, but negatives in that we then allowed ourselves to be hustled out of the match.”
Former Wolves’ forward Kai Williams set the scoreboard ticking with a three-pointer. A 2-8 deficit had James calling for a steadying time-out after just two minutes had elapsed.
Dallin Bachynski settled into a tidy scoring groove, notching a quartet of baskets as he faked passes and instead made shots, aiding a 23-22 Worcester edge as the first quarter closed.
An all-action Jermel Kennedy took the spotlight in the second period. He began with a steal and breakaway dunk. After laying on a series of assists, his versatility continued as he alternated between close-range and long-distance scores.
Coming out of the half-time locker rooms, a blitz of successes from outside the arc shocked the Eagles. A couple of threes apiece for Alex Navajas and Ashton Khan were backed up by similar sharpshooting from Brandon Parrish and Trayvon Palmer.
Williams was once more on the mark as the last quarter began. Careless Worcester ball-handling and consecutive shot-clock violations were joyfully pounced upon by the increasingly-confident Eagles.
A by-now rattled Wolves saw their once-sizeable lead swiftly erased. With 38 seconds to go there was still a glimmer of hope at 93-96, but Newcastle efficiently settled matters from the free-throw line.
Big men Navajas and Bachynski led the visitor’s scoring with 20 and 18 points respectively. Palmer and Khan both notched 16 points, with Kennedy and Parrish continuing the symmetry with a dozen points apiece.
Wolves return to the University of Worcester Arena this Friday, 27 October, hosting Cheshire Phoenix.
“Cheshire will be another good opponent. Orlan Jackman and Andrew Bachman will want to do well back in Worcester. We’re going to get down to hard work again this week, particularly with regard to executing down the stretch,” added James.
Match report by Colin Taylor
Image Credit: Razorlight Imagery