Report: Eagles WBBL 75-59 Nottingham Wildcats
Resurgent Newcastle Eagles bagged back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a spectacular victory against fourth-placed Nottingham Wildcats.
Red hot skipper Ali Gorrell scorched the opposition with another dynamic double double of 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Watch highlights of Eagles WBBL vs Nottingham Wildcats
Three Nottingham players fouled out by the time the final buzzer sounded as the ragged East Midlanders lost their cool and their first half lead.
But this was all about nerveless Newcastle as the Eagles continue to mount an unlikely late-season push for the playoffs.
Containing the dual threat of Jasmine Joyner and Chelsey Shumpert was never going to be easy as two of the WBBL’s top four scorers arrived on Tyneside in the form of their lives.
Averaging a combined 40 points per game, the prolific pair offer the Wildcats a destructive inside-outside option.
And Newcastle knew that limiting Joyner and Shumpert would be the first step towards springing a WBBL surprise.
But nobody could have predicted that ill-discipline would make that task considerably easier.
Joyner started the game as February’s player of the month but within two-and-a-half minutes the towering American was back on the bench.
Two quick fouls forced stand-in coach Karen Burton to make an early change and suddenly the Eagles had one less problem to worry about.
Shumpert was still a worry and the nimble guard played every minute of a tense first quarter, at times keeping the pre-match favourites in contention.
The Nottingham playmaker’s head-to-head with Newcastle favourite Maddy McVicar was already proving impossible to ignore.
And Shumpert got the better of that battle in the seventh minute as she robbed the Eagles guard before dropping an arcing triple to fire the visitors 18-15 ahead.
The Wildcats hit seven of their 16 three-point attempts in the first half and stopping that outside threat must have been the focus of Chris Bunten’s half-time team talk.
Keeping Joyner quiet was less of a concern.
Nottingham’s talented forward picked up a third foul midway through the second period and managed just eight first half minutes.
In fact, a focused Newcastle had restricted Joyner and Shumpert to just 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists during the opening 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats took a 39-33 lead into the break after Shumpert nailed another monster three on the buzzer to open up a six-point lead.
The hosts didn’t deserve to be trailing at the half and four points on the bounce from in-form Lowe got the third quarter off to the perfect start for Bunten’s side.
Prior to tip-off the former Barking Abbey guard had talked about her new-found confidence.
And Lowe looked every inch the WBBL veteran as she danced through the Nottingham defence to move to 13 points in just 18 minutes.
But it was McVicar who sparked the Eagles’ best period of play as the previously shackled guard suddenly burst into life.
Back-to-back three-point plays from the feisty American fired Newcastle 47-46 ahead before backcourt partner Gorrell took over.
Six points to close the period opened up a 55-51 lead and the prospect of successive wins for the first time this season appeared tantalisingly close.
Lowe converted a crunch three-point play to start the final period in style but it was the contribution of Jorjah Smith that was having an increasingly influential bearing on a WBBL thriller.
The irrepressible Aussie hauled down an 11th rebound two minutes after the restart to keep Nottingham off the glass and send Gorrell racing towards another two points.
And it was advantage Newcastle when a clearly frustrated Joyner picked up fouls four and five with four-and-a-half minutes to play.
Now attention turns to next Sunday’s homecourt clash against Caledonia Pride and the perfect opportunity to make it three wins in a row.