A fortnight on from their first win of the season, Newcastle Eagles Wheelchair Team were back in action, home to RGK Wolverhampton Rhinos. Amongst their starting five, Rhinos could count three members of GB Men’s Bronze Medal winning team from the Beijing Paralympics and that was in addition to Kyle Marsh, who at aged 18 is one of the sports most exciting prospects. Eagles were still without Michael Lomax, who is doing light training as he recovers from a shattered knuckle, but should be back in contention in January.
From the outset, this was a high-tempo encounter. Rhinos, who have qualified for European club competition this season, had the first opportunity to score. A missed Rhinos lay-up and some battling defence from Eagles kept the game scoreless until late in the second minute when Lewis Male drained his first shot of the match to take Eagles into the lead, much to the appreciation of the enthusiastic home support. Falling behind seemed to jump-start Rhinos offence who quickly moved into the lead but Eagles working really hard and after 5 minutes were trailing by one only basket. In the next 5 minutes Rhinos seemed to get the measure of Eagles defensive organisation and out-scored Eagles 15-2, Jon Hall leading Rhinos offence with his full range of inside and outside scoring. Eagles did create a number of opportunities but at this level of competition, missing lay-ups was proving costly.
The pattern of play in the opening phases of the second quarter was a continuation of the last part of the first. Rhinos were efficient and accurate in Offence, and on Defence, were now beginning to run through their repertoire of pressing tactics. By the end of the half Eagles were down by 27 points but they won’t be the only team this season to be hard pressed to contain the contrasting talents of power-Forward Darren Peasley and shooting Centre Kyle Marsh, who combined for 26 first half points.
In spite of the scoreline, this was Eagles best performance of the season to date, a point that was made clear to the team during half-time – as well as it being pointed out that opportunities had been missed, and that it was possible to raise the performance level higher. In the second half the team responded and for all but 90 seconds of the third quarter out-played and out-scored Rhinos. Coyne, Hollinshead, Male and Pimblett each contributed 2 baskets and the first of Stewart Pimblett’s was a long-range 3-pointer. A late third quarter fight-back from Rhinos which included a 3-pointer from Marsh put the brakes on Eagles scoring.
After the intermission Rhinos applied their pressing tactics ruthlessly. Under pressure to in-bound the ball from their own baseline Eagles surrendered a number of turnovers in their efforts to get the ball over half-way within 8 seconds. Against international standard players, handling errors are likely to get punished and Jon Hall didn’t disappoint scoring 13 of his total 26 points in this final quarter. Earlier in the season Eagles might well have collapsed under the pressure being applied by Rhinos, but they stuck to their task and in last 5 minutes added 10 points to Eagles total, the last two coming from Phil Bramley with a 12 foot attempt from the baseline. It was the final basket of the game which although Eagles lost, this was a much better performance than the 50-point margin suggested. The final score was, Eagles 43 – 93 Rhinos.
Eagles – Paul Coyne, 10; Malcolm Hollinshead, 8; Lewis Male, 8.
Rhinos – Jon Hall, 26; Kyle Marsh, 24; Darren Peasley, 16.