A SHORT-HANDED Worcester Wolves had to settle for second-best at British Basketball League high-flyers Newcastle Eagles on Friday.
Without Josh McSwiggan due to an injury picked up in practice, just seven Worcester players made the trip to Tyneside, with four of that line-up needing to remain on court for almost the entire forty minutes of the match.
Newcastle made the most of a deeper roster to keep their visitors at bay, doing enough to eventually take an 88-75 win.
“Some of our decision-making was poor and obviously we’re disappointed with the result,” admitted Wolves’ coach Matt Newby.
“But I’m proud of the professionalism of our players and think we proved today that we have players who can compete with one of the top teams in this league.
“There was a spell where Newcastle had eight possessions and we got stops on six of them leaving us on the verge of cutting the lead to single figures.”
Eagles’ big man pairing of Justin Gordon and Evan Maxwell combined for the host’s opening dozen points in a 12-12 tie, five minutes into the evening.
A couple of minutes later a triple from Wolves’ playmaker Maarten Bouwknecht pushed his side 19-16 ahead, before Newcastle edged 22-21 in front by the close of the first period.
At midway through the second quarter Worcester were still in contention, trailing 29-34. But their rhythm was disrupted by an accumulation of fouls. Micah Elan committed his third offence before half-time, with a trio of his teammates with a couple of infractions next to their names.
Newcastle capitalised on their opponents now having to play more conservatively to sweep to a 50-36 interval lead.
Jordan Williams and Matthew Bryan-Amaning gained some success close to the hoop after the break. Bouwknecht continued to impact the scoreboard as Eagles made hard work of breaking away.
Former Worcester guard Cortez Edwards connected from outside the arc with eight minutes remaining for a 77-60 advantage but ongoing Wolves stubbornness prevented an overwhelming margin of victory.
Bryan-Amaning put forward a 22 points and 12 rebounds double-double performance, with Bouwknecht and Williams supplying 19 points apiece.
Wolves are back in action against another title-contender this Monday, December 21 when they visit London Lions.
“We know London are very talented and we know it’s going to be a difficult match, but our guys will continue to show great resilience in a difficult situation,” said Newby.
“We need to manage our rotations while we await clarification on timelines for arrival of our import signings.”