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Worcester Wolves Take BBL Playoff Title

Worcester Wolves 90-78 Newcastle Eagles

Last Updated: May 12, 2014 04:11pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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BBL Playoff Final Sunday 11 May 2014

Worcester Wolves overcame one of British basketball’s traditional powerhouses on Sunday to lift the BBL Playoff title. Wolves’ 90-78 victory over Newcastle Eagles means that, coupled with their BBL Trophy triumph in March, they have secured two of the four competitions on offer this year, and now stand proudly as the premier side in the country.

After a season already full of plenty of successes, Worcester saved one of their finest displays for their final outing. Coach Paul James had promised that his side would be well-prepared for the occasion, and so it proved to be as a highly-disciplined performance thrilled over eight thousand people packed into Wembley Arena.

Wolves roared into an early lead, saw their advantage hauled back to just a single point as half-time approached, but once more punished the Eagles after the break, and this time brooked no second comeback from their opponents. In March’s final the Most Valuable Player Award went to one of Worcester’s unsung players, Jamal Williams, whereas on Sunday it went to someone who is most definitely one of the game’s more-lauded players, the MVP of the entire league, Zaire Taylor. Thirteen of his game-high 30 points came in an unstoppable four-minute spell during the third-quarter, bewitching supporters from Worcester while bewildering those from Newcastle.

Two outside baskets from Eagles’ Great Britain International Darius Defoe and American guard Drew Lasker opened the afternoon’s scoring. After three minutes a basket from Wolves’ captain Alex Owumi levelled matters, and from that juncture his side would never trail again, embarking on a devastating 23-9 run. A deuce of Taylor scores ignited the burst, with Wolves’ forwards Kalil Irving and Stefan Djukic coming off the bench to register their names on the scoresheet. During the same spell, a rattled Newcastle turned the ball over four times.

Jamal Williams quickly added a couple of points to the 29-15 first quarter cushion, before the Eagles’ revival began. At six minutes remaining in the half, Defoe and centre Scott Martin had both nailed consecutive scores to drag the deficit back to single figures at 35-27. Three minutes later a one-handed dunk from veteran Charles Smith further shrank it to 40-35. After Defoe had notched the last of his 16 first-half points, matters stood perilously close at 43-42.

A layup from Will Creekmore preceded a long miss by Williams. However, Williams was first to pounce on the rebound and kick the ball back out for Taylor to float home a triple as the buzzer sounded to signal the interval.

Two scores from Smith in the opening minute of the second half reduced the lead to 48-46, but the Newcastle side of the scoreboard would then remain stationary for a full eight minutes. The instigator of the rot was Taylor as he bundled Eagles’ guard Paul Gause aside and laid the ball home. A moment later Irving rose up to swat away a Gause shot attempt and on the next play Creekmore stood firmly in the path of the frustrated Newcastle man to draw an offensive charging foul.

Defoe was next to vent his irritation as he incurred a technical penalty after a skirmish with Williams. As Newcastle imploded, Taylor exploded with three successive scores, accelerating the Wolves lead from 63-46 to 65-46 to 67-46.

Entering the final ten minutes of the season holding a healthy 72-52 advantage, a well-earned brief exhalation of Worcester breath allowed Gause to sink seven swift points to help close the sides to 75-61. After that short relaxation it was once more back to business as Wolves determined to put the icing on the cake of their impressive subdual of the Eagles. Taylor entertained with a three-pointer, and Williams did likewise.

By the time Creekmore had been clumsily bulldozed to the floor by another exasperated Newcastle attacker and Taylor had produced a dazzling spin move to the hoop, the triumph had been totally sealed. Creekmore leapt to his feet to throw his hands in the air in delight and Taylor was encircled by a dancing mob of his team mates. As the match concluded, waves of Worcester fans swept on to the Wembley court to join the festivities.

Paul James praised his side for their strength in fulfilling his game-plan, saying: “I’m overjoyed for the players, fans and everyone involved with the organization. We executed our plays brilliantly and performed superbly on defence, disrupting Newcastle when we switched from man-to-man to zone defence, and back again.”

Referring to the massive travelling support his team enjoyed, James added: “It has been an awesome day with five or six coachloads of fans following us to Wembley. They played their part in our success.”

After Taylor’s 30 point display there followed a trio of Worcester players who all tallied 14 points apiece, namely Owumi, Creekmore and Williams. Defoe led the way for Newcastle with 22 points.    

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