Newcastle has one foot in BBL Playoff Final

The Newcastle Eagles have taken a huge leap into the Playoff Final in London next weekend after a 105-86 win over the Worcester Wolves.

The Eagles were the stronger side from the opening tip-off and aside from a minute in the first quarter, led for most of the game. The Eagles shot the ball a lot better than the Wolves, picking their spots better and scoring more efficiently. The Eagles also excelled in the paint with Darius Defoe putting in a stellar performance scoring 26 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.

The Eagles were able to score 23 fast break points, and punished turnovers to the tune of 25 points. The Wolves gave up 14 turnovers to the Eagles’ 12, but the Wolves could only score 11 points from these turnovers. This was in part due to poor finishing, but also down to very strong defence being played. Despite the high scoreline, both sides made a lot of defensive stops and some highlight reel blocks.

The Wolves, were no slouches inside, however, and played a lot stronger than predicted, but their decision making, especially in the final quarter, was poor. The Eagles had 25 free throw attempts, including 8 in the final quarter, many of which were conceded cheaply. The Wolves abandoned their efficient shooting, replacing it with an attempt at volume scoring, but led to their players settling for poor looks early in the shot clock and passing out of good scoring positions.

The Wolves matched the Eagles in rebounding, 44 a piece, but were beaten badly in assists with the Eagles finishing with 32 assists (Rahmon Fletcher with 12) to their 19. The way the Eagles were able to move the ball was a huge factor in their success as Fletcher and Fabulous Flournoy making excellent passes which opened up scoring chances for the home side.

The Wolves were not without their chances and clawed back Eagles’ leads several times, but whenever they got close the hosts would take their play up a notch and bust the score wide open again. Marek Klassen and Danny Huffy were kept quiet, being limited to 12 and 7 points respectively, and whilst they contributed with rebounds and assists, neither had games to write home about. The top scorer for the Wolves was Maurice Walker who had a very good game bagging a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds.

The Wolves have left themselves with a massive amount to do at home on Friday night. They have a 19 point deficit to overcome over a Newcastle side who have tasted blood in the water. It is hard to see how, if these two sides play again, anything other than the exact same result would be repeated, if not worse. The Eagles were very good, but missed a lot of relatively simple points, especially at the foul line, but the Wolves were very disappointing and will need to play with far more discipline and sense in the home leg.

It is hard not to call the series over, but this is the BBL and anything can happen. The last game these two played in Worcester the Wolves won by 29, which would be a big enough margin to see them into the Final. If the Eagles maintain their effort on both ends of the floor like they played tonight they will be in the Final no questions asked. The Wolves will need a very good day, and for the Eagles to fall apart a little. The Wolves will take heart from the Flyers being able to score 41 points in one-quarter against the Eagles, a team that the Wolves will feel they’re better than.

Worcester enters Friday night with nothing to lose and will need to play that way if they hope to make it to London. Newcastle just needs 40 minutes of professional, efficient basketball to punch their ticket to make the Final again.


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