The bragging rights for now in North East top flight basketball go to Newcastle Eagles after a thrilling derby day victory over Durham Palatinates.
It’s a win that consolidates Newcastle’s play-off position and deals a blow to Durham’s.
The other winners were the loud and proud home crowd who turned up in superb numbers to cheer the Eagles on to a huge win. The final figure of 569 showing what progress is being made by a Newcastle WBBL side that the fans have taken to their heart.
Both teams were coming off a tough loss from the previous day’s encounters giving even more importance to an already important game. Eagles had lost to the strong Leicester Riders side on the road whilst Durham Lost a thriller against Sheffield but did have the advantage of having been at home.
So, both teams knew going into the game at the Vertu Motors Arena how significant a win could be. Indeed, Eagles Head Coach Noelia Cacheiro had called it a must-win during the week when she’d previewed the game.
At the end of s pulsating forty minutes of basketball it was Cacheiro that was sporting the big smile and crown whilst counterpart Lee Davie walked from court with a frown and serious thinking to do.
His side has been in the driving seat deep into the third period when they established a ten-point lead and looked to be heading for a memorable road trip but this Eagles side led by Cacheiro from the side-lines never lets their heads drop and came back in style.
The Eagles had jumped out early as the game started and Maggie Justinak’s quick seven-points personal had them into a 9 – 2 lead which prompted a time-out call from Davie. Out of that tactical discussion Nette Lewis added an and-1 play and the gap was ten.
But back came Durham and led by the excellent Elle Hendershot they dominated the second part of the first quarter to turn the game around and let 17 – 16 after the first ten minutes.
Most felt before the game that it was always going to be a tight contest and the second quarter proved that in abundance. Defences on both side were stingy and making it hard for each other to score.
No-one dominated, no-one gave an inch and a 17 – 17 period meant the Palatinates took a slender one-point lead into the locker rooms at the half. It was more of the same on the resumption of battle in the second twenty minutes.
Durham squeezed and nudged that lead up to ten points at one stage. The score being 45 – 35 in their favour before Newcastle fought back to reduce the deficit to only two at 47 – 49 to setup a dramatic last quarter.
That was the period when it got really serious as the two sides slugged it out blow-by-blow and with 4:02 remaining and the scores tied at 60 points-all Newcastle made the decisive run.
An 8 – 2 run capped by MVP Courtney Clasen’s driving two point lay-up took the home side into the last minute and a half leading by six points. They coupled that offensive burst with excellent game management and defence to close out a memorable derby day win.