WORCESTER Wolves’ bid for silverware came to an agonising end when they fell to a 199-197 aggregate defeat to Newcastle Eagles in the British Basketball League play-off semi-finals.
Having lost the first leg 105-86 at the Sport Central Arena last Wednesday, Wolves went into Friday’s clash knowing they needed to overcome a 19-point deficit if they were to reach the final at London’s O2 Arena.
A packed University of Worcester Arena roared on the hosts who managed to produce an almighty comeback to force the game into overtime but, despite Wolves wrapping up an emphatic 111-94 victory, Eagles crept through by the narrowest of margins with a last-gasp Rahmon Fletcher free-throw.
Assistant coach Alex Radu, who took charge of the team alongside fellow assistant coach Danny McGhee and University of Worcester basketball academic Alejandro Vaquero in head coach Paul James’ absence, believes the club ‘paid the price’ for their poor first leg performance.
“We showed what can be done when you stick to a game plan and with a tiny bit more concentration we would have pulled off a tremendous comeback,” he said.
“It was a magnificent display. Everyone was really switched on for what we needed to do in order to overturn the massive 19-point deficit against a Newcastle side that have been one of the league’s premier teams for many years.
“But ultimately, we paid the price for letting ourselves down in the first leg. Everyone is obviously disappointed,” he added.
Danny Huffor set the scoreboard ticking before Maurice Walker set up camp close to the Newcastle basket to push his way to a quartet of scores.
Having opened a 33-32 lead entering the second period, Wolves were forced to swarm their basket to prevent Eagles connecting, but 16 points from Scott Martin kept the visitors in the game as Wolves entered half time with a 54-45 advantage.
Alex Navajas opened the scoring in the second half, before Trevor Setty and Jermel Kennedy settled into an offensive groove as the hosts kept chipping away at the aggregate deficit.
By midway through the last quarter Worcester had finally erased their arrears after another Walker effort made it 94-74, but with just 44 seconds on the clock Fletcher levelled the aggregate scores at 103-84 to force five minutes of added time.
It would take nearly three minutes for Wolves to add to their total, whilst Eagles kept connecting to edge away, but Marek Klassen’s bucket once again brought the sides level on aggregate at 197-197.
With just four seconds remaining, Huffor was whistled for a foul on Fletcher, who held his nerve to convert the resultant free-throw and seal victory.
“It’s been a strange season. After the first half of the year we were not even in a play-off position, but after that it was a totally different story. We put ourselves just one basket away from reaching the play-off final,” Radu added.
“On behalf of everyone I want to say sorry we couldn’t quite do enough to reward our supporters with a trip to the final.”