Newcastle Eagles entertain title challengers BA London Lions this afternoon desperate to break an increasingly dangerous losing habit.
For the second weekend on the bounce Chris Bunten’s side suffered a heartbreaking defeat down the stretch.
And a seventh league loss leaves crestfallen Newcastle clinging on to their playoff dream ahead of what will be the toughest of tests against the high-flying Lions.
Just seven days after Cardiff Met Archers closed out a tense two-point win on Tyneside, lightning struck twice for the troubled Eagles.
Caledonia Pride turned the ball over an incredible 31 times during an error-strewn cross-border battle but the hosts held on to snatch an 86-81 win.
And Bunten will be left wondering what more his short-handed side has to do to rescue a campaign that looks doomed to failure.
Newcastle skipper Ali Gorell fell two points short of her own WBBL Championship individual scoring record as she motored towards another monstrous 38-point haul.
But the exhausted guard looked dead on her feet as she fouled out in the dying seconds of another hugely frustrating fixture.
Jorjah Smith’s 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench underlined the Aussie guard’s increasing value to a team searching for much-needed confidence and a fresh identity.
But Sian Phillips’ stunning double double of 28 points and 23 rebounds was the story of the game for the Pride as the home side moved above the Eagles in the Championship table.
Prior to his team’s trip to Edinburgh, Bunten had talked about better game management and the need to guard possession.
And a first period riddled with individual errors must have baffled Newcastle’s playcaller following a week of practice focused on protecting the ball.
The Pride’s full court press piled the pressure on the hesitant visitors and the Eagles cracked time and time again as the turnovers kept on coming.
But it was a similar story for the Scots as a scrappy start to frenetic derby was more about glaring mistakes than showreel plays.
Not for the first time this season Newcastle turned to co-captain Gorrell in a bid to settle nerves and get the scoreboard ticking.
A familiar tactic worked a treat.
And the Pride’s only solution to a taxing problem was to prevent the Eagles’ top scorer from progressing in the paint by any means necessary.
Gorrell was fouled four times in the first quarter and made the most of every visit to the bonus stripe to convert six of six from the line.
Smith sank four free throws of her own as the Eagles’ edged into a 26-22 lead heading into the second period.
And a must-win clash for the visitors looked there for the taking if Newcastle could only cut down on a series of basic errors.
If the Pride’s scouting report had centred on the twin threat of Gorrell and Maddy McVicar then there was little the hosts could do — legally, at least — to slow down the pacey guards.
The Eagles duo combined for 30 points, five boards and six assists in the opening 20 minutes of another eye-catching WBBL contest.
But Caledonia captain Maud Ranger was keeping the Newcastle defence keen from beyond the arc.
And forwards Phillips and Pollyanna Storie were capitalising on their rivals’ lack of height to dominate in the paint.
Significantly, all three of the Pride’s biggest scoring threats had three fouls early in the third quarter and Ranger racked up a potentially pivotal fourth with five minutes of the period to play.
But a terrific 11-2 tear from the hosts opened up a 61-52 lead as the Eagles’ offence all but dried up.
The hosts took a 10-point lead into the final period but a vital put-back two from Smith opened the fourth quarter scoring.
Gorrell moved to 31 personal to tie the game at 72-72 but that was as good as it got for fast-tiring Newcastle as another winnable match went begging.
Today the WBBL Eagles face the BA London Lions and you can watch live on the Newcastle Eagles Box Office: