On paper this game seemed a formality for the new-look Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles Women’s British Basketball League side. They faced a Cardiff Met Archers team that had lost all four previous League games and were struggling to find any form.
The Eagles meanwhile came into the game on the back of a home win 7 days earlier in the Derby clash with Durham and a further week’s practice to integrate their two recent American acquisitions.
In the end, after Archers gave Newcastle some problems in the first half, it proved to be exactly that. The Eagles pulling away comfortably in the second twenty minutes to record back-to-back home wins and take their season record to 3 wins and 3 losses.
After the game Head Coach Matt Newby said how it was still very much a learning process for his team. He needing to get to know them better as players and people and they needing to understand his philosophies and requirements of them.
Whilst it is most definitely a work in progress, there has been significant progress already shown by a Newcastle side that all seem eager and hungry to impress their new play-caller.
Certainly, in the second half they moved the ball well and shared responsibility and had too many powerful weapons and strength, particularly inside the paint, for a beleaguered Archers side.
The Eagles ended up with four players in double-digit scoring and one only two points away and for the second week running both Tierra Hodges and Katie Nolan added ten rebounds to record double-doubles.
Nolan herself proclaiming after the game how much fun it had been to play in the game and see the togetherness and willingness that all ten players suited up and getting on court showed towards each other.
No-one played more than 31 minutes and even Alex Campbell who came off the bench and has often had limited opportunities played a tick over 6 and a half minutes which enabled Newby to see all his players having significant court time.
Hodges really does look a player and has settled into Tyneside life so smoothly. She followed last week’s 30-point game with another 27-point effort in this one to lead her team to the victory.
Nolan had 18 points and Captain Marina Fernandez but perhaps the MVP honours of the day went to GB squad member Abby Lowe who was excellent all-round on the day. She had 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots.
A superb performance especially when she linked up with Hodges for several of her assists. The two forming a seemingly telepathic bond at times. Another encouraging sign for Newcastle.
The first quarter as it often is, was close and very hard-fought. Newcastle were in front early but Cardiff showed grit and determination to not let the Eagles get away from them.
Indeed, when Jenna Hoschoeur netted two free throws they actually took a one-point lead at 14 – 13. That though was as good as it got for the visitors as the Eagles finished the period with a 6 points to 2 run rubber stamped by the improving Zoe Willis’ triple and they led 19 – 16 going into the second.
Once again though Cardiff, led by the excellent Haylee Saurette who had a fine game in defeat with 28 points and 14 rebounds to actually lead the game in both categories, didn’t go away and kept the score line tight as the period unfolded.
The decisive run from Newcastle came with 6:11 to play in the half. Scoring from all over the court and spreading the load really well they ended the first twenty minutes with a 15 points to 6 run to lead 42 – 30 as the sides headed for the locker rooms.
The third was always going to be crucial and so it proved as Newcastle moved up a gear and dominated their opponents. The lead gradually rising and rising until Cardiff’s resistance was snapped and they slipped away to another League defeat.
The Eagles were really flying as the game entered its final ten minutes and completely dominated that final quarter, actually got the lead up to 37 points at 92 – 55 at one stage as Hodges nailed a triple to register her final points of the game and seal the deal.
There will be bigger tests to come for this Eagles side as the season continues starting with a visit to a very competitive Oaklands Wolves next Saturday night. A win there would see the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles flying into the Christmas break in high festive spirit.