Newcastle Eagles secured a thrilling 86-74 overtime win over BBL Championship leaders Worcester Wolves at Sport Central.
In all honesty the game was dull until the very end of regulation time, but that will not matter to the Eagles faithful who watched their team secure a hard-fought win.
The battle of the top two teams in the league was always going to be a patchy affair, and the opening exchanges echoed back to the pair’s first meeting at Sport Central.
Eagles player/coach Fab Flournoy had said earlier in the week that he believes Worcester head coach Paul James to be the best coach in the league.
But it appeared that tactics had left both sides in the opening quarter as they each struggled to find any sort of rhythm. Newcastle got off to the better of the two starts – albeit marginally – and after 60 full seconds of play Scott Martin opened the scoring for the home side.
Back and forth the chances and wasted chances came and went, until eventually it was the visiting Wolves who ended the first quarter on top 13-14.
The Eagles looked to have settled in the second period, but as was the case in the first clash, Worcester rallied and fought back – making the most after they racked up five team fouls within the first three minutes of the quarter. With the teams tied at 24-24 midway through the second period, Newcastle went on a 9-0 run to lead 30-24.
There then came a blip when BBL and Eagles veteran Charles Smith fouled out of the game before the break – he had recorded five points and four rebounds before his dismissal, but he was far from his vintage best.
Worcester did claw back the deficit towards the end of the half, but the home team went in to the break three points to the good at 35-32.
Despite the lead, and perhaps scarily for such a team so prolific in the shooting department, Newcastle did not make a single three point shot in the first two periods. Their 0/7 however was bettered in the dismal stakes however by Worcester who shot 0/9.
The second half began and for the opening blows the Eagles were coming out on top – they extended their lead early in the quarter, but as was the case in the first half could not make the lead count. The turning point came when Worcester’s Zaire Taylor – who was key to the Wolves’ victory in the last meeting – collected his fourth personal foul.
Coach James kept Taylor in the game and instead of the Eagles driving at him and forcing him in to a foul, they hung back and allowed the deadly shooter to shoot two consecutive three pointers. The two long range shots meant Newcastle trailed 50-53 going in to the final stanza. Taylor and co came out firing in the fourth quarter and extended their lead to 11 at 50-61 with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.
The game finally came to life with less than five minutes remaining on the clock. Malik Cooke made back-to-back three pointers to bring Newcastle within a single possession at 60-63, and this also included several wasted Worcester attacks.
Ice cold free throws from Paul Gause sent the game to over-time where the Eagles rallied to come out on top.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES: Malik Cooke 29, Scott Martin 17, Paul Gause 13
WORCESTER WOLVES: Alex Owumi 16, Zaire Taylor 13, Andreas Schreiber 11