Wolves Upset The Eagles

Newcastle Eagles 81-86 Worcester Wolves

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2014 09:51pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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Worcester Wolves opened their 2014 British Basketball League campaign in stunning fashion by upsetting the highly-touted Newcastle Eagles on their own court on Friday. Last May the Wolves overcame Newcastle at Wembley to lift the BBL Playoff title after a ding-dong battle; Friday’s encounter was just as ferocious, and once more it was the men from Worcester who emerged as the victors.

There was little to separate the teams throughout the match. As the last minute of the evening approached, a thunderous dunk from Robert Thurman put Wolves ahead at 82-78. However, Eagles’ Andy Thomson replied with a triple to once more put the outcome in the balance. As a three thousand-strong home crowd roared their approval, Wolves’ coach Paul James calmly instructed his troops to run a final set-play. Point guard Chavis Holmes walked the ball around the court until Thurman was able to position himself directly under the basket. Once the ball was floated into his hands, Thurman greedily slammed it home. A couple of free throws put the seal on the 86-81 triumph.

It was Thurman who also began the night’s scoring, followed by another new recruit, Remi Dibo. While Newcastle similarly featured a number of debutants, it was one of their stalwarts, veteran forward Charles Smith, who made the biggest early impression. Seven consecutive points from Smith helped his side into a 24-22 lead. But, with just six seconds of the initial quarter left, young Wolves’ forward Disraeli Lufadeju intercepted a wayward Eagles’ ball and bulleted it to his fellow University of Worcester student Kalil Irving who nailed a three-pointer.

Holmes put his mark on the match in the second period, accumulating seven points before he was spelled by backup Caylin Raftopoulos. Time and again it was Holmes, or fellow guard Alex Owumi, who found Thurman perfectly positioned to take advantage of their assists and make his way to 14 first-half points.

A 48-49 interval deficit was reversed when Jamal Williams made the first of a trio of successive baskets. Back and forth went the advantage, until the dying seconds of the third quarter when Irving was once more the standout. After a miss by Newcastle’s Drew Lasker, Irving galloped towards his opponents’ basket to throw down a score and also secure a bonus free throw after a clumsy Thomson foul.

With the game still poised at just 65-62 in the visitors’ favour, neither team gave significant ground. Smith and Thomson lit up the arena with a duo of long-range scores, but Dibo just as quickly silenced matters by doing likewise. So the contest moved towards the final moments of drama, and Worcester’s eventual 86-81 success. 

 Paul James was delighted to see his charges take the win, saying: “It’s always hard to come to Newcastle, with a big crowd behind them, but this is the kind of game we needed, to establish where we are in the scheme of things. Right now our players will know that if we come out and execute our plays, and run hard defence, we will be a tough team to beat.”

Referring to the decisive final minute of the match, James explained: “The end, where we ran the clock down for a big dunk from Robert Thurman, was an absolutely fantastic play. It’s something that we’ve worked on in practice especially for end-of-game situations, and it worked perfectly in killing the game off.”

Thurman sparkled on his BBL debut, leading all scorers with 27 points, as well as pulling down 13 rebounds. In a night of balanced Worcester scoring, forwards Williams and Dibo tallied 13 and 12 points respectively, with guards Holmes and Owumi notching 11 and 10 points. Lasker top-scored for Newcastle with 16 points.

Wolves will now look forward to beginning the entertainment for their fans at the University of Worcester Arena with the visit of Cheshire Phoenix this Friday 03 October (tip off 7.30pm). James was keen to add a few words about next week’s home-opener, saying: “We want to defend our own court. We’re looking for a big turnout to support us, and I know the players will feed off that. We’ll be looking for another spectacular performance like tonight’s, so that we can go 2-0.”



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