|Newcastle Eagles WBBL||25||18||18||30||91||Win|
|Manchester Met Mystics||18||19||22||18||77||Loss|
Noelia Cacheiro heaped praise on her energetic bench after a strong start and explosive finish bookended Newcastle’s second win on the bounce.
The in-form Eagles head into a two-week break sitting pretty in sixth place in the WBBL.
And the women in black proved their playoff pedigree after overcoming a nervy period either side of half-time to power home against Manchester.
“The start and the finish were the positives for us,” said Cacheiro.
“I just think we lacked execution defensively for long periods.
“I was very happy with that side of our game against Sheffield but not so much against the Mystics.
“The game plan coming into the weekend was that defence was going to win us the game.
“But they scored 77 points and that’s way too many for us to concede. Of course, we scored 91 and that’s a lot of points for us.”
Katie Nolan — dubbed The Hoover by her team-mates — swept up 13 boards alongside a game high 30 points to edge the MVP vote.
Fellow big Nette Lewis wasn’t far behind with a monster double double of her own as she bagged 22 points and 14 rebounds.
And both players will be jostling for position in the latest WBBL All Star Five after pounding the Mystics in the paint.
But Cacheiro was quick to point to the contribution of her bench as Chloe Gaynor and fit-again Courtney Clasen combined for 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“Apart from ‘defence’, the other key word going into the Mystics game was ‘bench’,” added Newcastle’s playcaller.
“I thought the team that would win on Saturday was the team that brought more energy off the bench.
“I think our bench made the difference. Chloe came in and did very well and Courtney came in and contributed too. That’s what we need.
“We need people coming off the bench and helping us with rotations but also helping us with positive things on both offence and defence.”
Gaynor and Clasen were both key to the Eagles’ fourth quarter turnaround after Manchester had found a way back into the game.
Down by seven points after the opening 10 minutes, Marg Jones’ side rallied to claim both periods either side of the break.
And the visitors — assisted by former Newcastle Comets favourite Ploutos Vourliotis — were just two points adrift heading into the final quarter.
“We talked about the fact that energy was going to be the key for us coming in,” added Cacheiro.
“But that energy wasn’t always there.
“Manchester had a good game plan coming in and they went into a zone for a very, very long period of time.
“Until we started finding people in the low post things didn’t open up for us. But we got there in the end.
“It was difficult because the way that Manchester were setting the zone meant they didn’t allow us to get the ball to the wings and create from there.
“The moment we slowed down, the defence recovered and we didn’t really read the game in the paint.
“We just didn’t get the ball in there quick enough to create the scoring opportunities.”
Manchester’s zone — in tandem with 54 per cent shooting off 22 attempts from beyond the arc — kept the WBBL’s bottom club in the mix until the final five minutes.
But once Samantha Keltos, who converted 7-10 from the field on her way to 23 points, fouled out it was game over for the battling visitors.
Newcastle are back in action on February 19 when the Eagles visit third-bottom Nottingham Wildcats.
And Cacheiro will be hoping a two-week break allows absentees Zoe Willis and Abby Lowe to edge closer to full fitness after both players missed the Manchester clash.