Newcastle Eagles Women1816162171Win
Oaklands Wolves2415171167Loss

In front of an excellent packed Vertu Motors Arena, the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles produced a sensational finish to this crucial regular season League claim a vital win in their push towards the end of season play-offs.

The 517 in the crowd were loud and proud as their favourites responded to their support by coming back inside the final two and a half minutes to take a victory that was always a possibility but looked at times unlikely.

Eagles Women will be looking at carrying on the winning momentum as they head closer to the Play-Offs. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Head Coach Matt Newby had talked about the run-in being about 120 minutes of basketball and not just this one game. However, there’s no doubting that this first 40 minutes of a three-game finish was perhaps the most important of all.

He talked about his side needing to play with composure, control and be up tempo and as always he preached that his charges needed to play for forty minutes if they were to get the desired result.

A coaching philosophy that his team certainly bought into on Saturday night in a high-level, intense contest between two very evenly matched sides that was a superb advert for the Women’s British Basketball League.

There was a boost for Newby and the faithful supporters with the welcome sight of USA guard Coutney Clasen suited and warming up prior to the game. Clasen who has had a horrendous time with injuries during her spell an Eagle had been out since February 3rd.

But her return from her latest injury had been well managed and controlled and that certainly showed in a performance that was probably the decisive X-factor in Newcastle’s win.

What was also decisive was the heart, commitment, togetherness and sheer will to win that the team showed in those last few heart stopping minutes.

The game had started well with All-Star power forward Tierra Hodges making her presence felt early and sharpshooting Abby Lowe hitting her straps early on to take the Eagles into a 17 to 11 lead forcing an Oaklands time-out.

Abby Lowe helped put the hosts in front early on. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Whatever Coach Lee Ryan said to his players clearly worked as led by the excellent Beth Sarson and the scoring power of Cat Thompson they rallied superbly. An 11 points to 1 run from the time-out allowing to lead after the first period 24 to 18.

The second period initially belonged to Wolves who stayed in front despite the Eagles best efforts. Clasen was introduced from the bench and her first touch saw her sink a big triple. Captain Marina Fernandez added a free-throw and the game was tied at 33.

But once again the visitor’s showed their prowess and closed the half with a 7 – 2 burst to give them an interval lead of 39 – 34 as the teams headed to the locker rooms to talk things over.

Wolves came out hungry after the break and snaffled the first six points of the third quarter to take a double-digit lead for the first time in the game. However, Hodges, Clasen and Lowe combined brilliantly to bring the hosts back to within three points.

Cat Thompson though wasn’t to be denied and her scoring punch as the third expired meant Oaklands went into the final quarter with a six-point advantage at 56 to 50. A lead they increased initially in that last ten minutes.

Lauren Saiki produced a game high 8 assists. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Zoe Willis made a valuable contribution to the Eagles comeback in an unanswered  eight-point run that brought the side’s level once more at 58 points each. Newcastle though were once again knocked back as Wolves produced another 9 – 2 burst.

Thompson and Sarson again the main instigators with help from Allison Day and with to minutes and three seconds left in the contest the visitor’s looked like they had established a lead at 67 – 60 that they could control.

Not a bit of it. Clasen was certainly not going to let this go easily and once again hit a triple. Lowe followed suit and it was a one-point game. A Hodges layup and then a free-throw for an infringement and suddenly Eagles were in front.

A great assist from Clasen to Lowe who netted off the glass and Eagles had completed a remarkable 11-point run that sealed a wonderful victory and should give them huge momentum for the two remaining games.

Those games are against winless Cardiff on the road next Saturday and then second-from bottom Manchester in the Vertu Motors Arena on Saturday 27th April. Two very winnable games and chance to for The Eagles to fly into the playoffs in confident mood.