Worcester Wolves found the going tough against second-placed Newcastle Eagles at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday.
After battling back from an early double-figure deficit to trail by just 30-35 at half-time, a demoralising 12-29 third quarter allowed Eagles to pull away to a comfortable 87-67 victory.
The evening began in entertaining fashion with a behind-the-back pass from Marek Klassen that Alex Navajas found easy to convert. By the midpoint of the opening quarter Wolves still held an edge at 10-9 following a determined coast-to-coast basket from Jermel Kennedy.
However, a 12-2 burst from Eagles had reversed the lead by the close of the quarter. By three minutes before half-time the visitors’ lead had extended to 35-19.
Five points from birthday-boy Trevor Setty and a last-second Kennedy block at the buzzer helped drag Wolves back into contention by the interval.
On his first return to Worcester since his summer departure, Orlan Jackman took the initial score of the second-half. Jackman then found dangerous guard Rahmon Fletcher open for a three-pointer and Newcastle began to break clear.
Unable to cope with swarming defenders, Wolves threw away successive possessions. By contrast, Eagles continued to calmly build their advantage.
The hosts trailed 42-64 entering the final quarter. With their route to the basket frequently blocked, Wolves resorted to numerous wild shots from the outside, ending the evening with just three successes from twenty-four attempts.
Setty and Kennedy joint top-scored for Wolves with 16 points. Fletcher led the way for Newcastle with 20 points.
Coach Paul James admitted to a tough night for his team, saying: “We did a great job to get back into the game but then gave the ball away several times. Before you knew it, Newcastle had started to pull clear and it was all over.”
Wolves quickly return to action at winless Manchester Giants this Sunday (tip off 5pm). “We competed today for 20-25 minutes, but a total of twenty-nine turnovers was far from good enough. We will need to take much better care of the ball against Manchester and execute on offense,” added James.