INJURY-HIT Newcastle Eagles have considerably more space in the trophy cabinet this morning after they relinquished their grip on the BBL Trophy with a home-court loss to Worcester Wolves.
Barely a month after Leicester Riders took the BBL Cup out of the cupboard, half the contents of last seasons’ epic clean sweep have now been reclaimed by their competitors.
This time, though, there was overpowering mitigation for their failure.
Not only were the Eagles denied the use of uber-infuential playmaker Damon Huffman, they were also denied the services of player-coach Fab Flournoy – something which ultimately proved to be too much to cope with against a useful Wolves side.
The opening half was entertaining enough for the big Sport Central crowd, played via a rhythmic tempo, although neither team was able to impose itself strongly enough to make any kind of meaningful run.
Consequently, both sides traded baskets and jabbed away at each other.
The Eagles relied on bench duo Joe Ikhinmwin and Ant Martin to plug the gap in resources, while the Wolves benefitted from the prolific shooting of eventual game-winner Alex Owumi.
When the teams hit the locker rooms at the break, the Eagles had managed to nudge 43-42 ahead, although were probably fortunate not to have trailed, with Lithuanian giant Arturas Masiulis surprisingly failing to score when wide open at the basket on more than one occasion.
When the action resumed, the Eagles visibly cranked up their intensity and especially defensively, holding the Wolves to a meagre six points in seven minutes.
This was complimented by nice scores at the hoop for Kareem Maddox down the other end, which gave the home side a handy six-point lead.
However, Owumi continued to keep his team in the game as the Wolves threatened to wrestle the initiative away from the Eagles permanently with a 13-2 run either side of the third and fourth-quarter break to move 69-63 in front.
The Eagles then sucker-punched Worcester with a nice little burst of scoring which got them back to within a point.
However, as foul trouble began to mount, Kareem Maddox picked up his fifth and that was the end of his involvement having secured an impressive 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Still, the supporters continued to believe especially when a huge three-pointer by Joe Chapma, levelled matters at 71-71 with more than five minutes remaining.
Owumi, though, wasn’t finished as he stroked yet another triple.
Seconds later, Chapman was left pole-axed on the floor which led to him being carried off the court, his worrying injury rubbing salt into the wounds and looking like the final nail in the coffin.
With the Wolves’ players looking decidedly smug at 78-71, the valiant Eagles scored six points in a row to briefly wipe the smile from their faces, but 34- point Owumi wasn’t to be denied as he delivered one more killer blow.
TOP SCORERS – Newcastle Eagles: Smith 23, Maddox 21, Defoe 16.
Worcester Wolves: Owumi 34, Masiulis 19, Ocitti 13.