It was a bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Newcastle Eagles as they slipped to defeat against a rejuvenated Rebels side yesterday.
A result that in truth Newcastle had expected to reverse against an all-be-it-tough opponent.
Going into the game Newcastle did hold all the aces. A win on the same court last weekend in the WBBL Trophy quarter-finals by a single point and an away win at Nottingham that took them above the Rebels in the league.
But with this performance from the home side it means that the positions in the middle of the play-off pack tighten up again and make the run to the end of the season all the more enthralling.
Had the Eagles been able to reproduce the heroics of last weekend they would have seen a significant gap between the two sides with Noelia Cacheiro’s charges even looking higher up the table.
However, the Rebels had other thoughts and ideas affecting an excellent game plan that held Newcastle’s normal fluid scoring prowess particularly inside down and then allowed them to create scoring opportunities for themselves.
For the home side, Ashleigh Munns was deadly from beyond the arc netting five from seven attempts to lead her side in scoring. She had excellent support from Daniela Turner, Claire Paxton and Tia Freeman.
The Eagles were once indebted to Nette Lewis who had yet another double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds whilst fellow front-court destroyer Katie Nolan also doubled up netting 11 points and 10 rebounds for another double-double.
Eagles Maggie Justinak was also in excellent form to lead all scorers for the game but beyond that, the other Eagles players just didn’t support their scoring trio well enough as they slipped to a very damaging result.
Virtually from the off the Rebels looked like they meant business although a Justinak triple did open the game early and the Eagles actually led the Rebels inside the first ten minutes. Little did anyone suspect anything like this would happen but happen it did and that 5 – 3 lead was as good as it got for Newcastle.
Both teams made slow starts to the game but by the end of the first Essex had edged ahead. Then Munns hit back-2-back triples early in the second and suddenly the home side led by double digits.
Newcastle led by Justinak and Lewis did hit back and cut the gap back to a single point until an 11 – 0 run for the Rebels gave them another double-figure lead to take into the locker rooms.
The second half opened with Rebels netting the first eight points of the third period and it meant that Newcastle who were restricted to just ten points in the quarter were beginning to feel they were chasing a lost cause at 60 – 43 down.
Eagles did give it a real go in the final period and did cut the gap considerably but the damage had already been done. The Eagles are normally dominant inside but on this occasion, Essex did a brilliant job in restricting Newcastle’s normal solid game plan.
So, a disappointing result and performance for an Eagles side that felt they’d turned the corner. They now have to re-gather and re-think again as they suffered a setback to their plans to make that run for a high seeding play-off position.