Worcester Wolves advance to BBL Cup semi-finals after beating Newcastle Eagles
Worcester Wolves are through to the semi-finals of the BBL Cup after nudging past Newcastle Eagles in the final moments of a thrilling encounter at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday.
With just a minute to go Eagles held sway at 86-85. Worcester reversed the lead before new signing Amir Williams emerged victorious from an on-the-floor tussle with Newcastle seven-footer CJ Gettys, throwing the ball back out to his teammates.
As the last seconds of the match ticked away Wolves were able to seal a 90-86 success from the free-throw line.
Coach Matt Newby praised his players’ composure, saying: “Newcastle have been a power in this league for many years and we had to be focused to beat them.
“Our maturity got it done at the end. If we’re mature at critical instances then we’ll stay in good shape. We saw that tonight from the likes of Cortez Edwards and Kofi Josephs, with Jordan Williams putting the team on his shoulders and we saw a great debut from Amir.”
A tight opening quarter featured eight-point contributions from Jordan Williams and Edwards and the first points in a Worcester vest from Amir Williams as he buffeted past Gettys.
A 25-24 Wolves edge widened into the maximum gap between the teams at 42-32 with three minutes of the first half remaining. The close nature of the contest was restored as Eagles narrowed their hosts’ advantage to 44-41 by the interval.
Worcester’s defensive intensity came to the fore when the combatants returned to the court with Amir Williams standing tall to produce his fourth block of the evening and force a shot-clock violation.
Newcastle three-point successes either side of the third-quarter break put them 67-65 ahead. Edwards similarly connected from distance to prevent the visitors’ lead from increasing.
Jordan Williams impressed with blue-collar work as he repeatedly backed down opponents for his own scores or drew double-defenders to leave teammates open to make their shots.
Edwards drilled his fourth triple to give an 80-74 advantage with four minutes left before Eagles replies set up an exciting finish.
Williams and Edwards led the way with 28 and 25 points respectively. Josephs was close to a double-double return by grabbing nine rebounds to sit alongside his nine-point tally while Amir Williams notched an impactful 10 points and six boards.
Newby enjoyed watching the battle of the big men, saying: “CJ is a great player but I think it’s one-nil to us after tonight. Him and Amir show a different dimension to the sport.
“It’s been a guard-orientated league for a long time but if our game is to move into Europe on a regular basis it needs to know how to incorporate these big fellows into our game.”
The win sets up a two-legged semi-final against Leicester Riders, who knocked cup-holders London Lions out of the competition, with a place in January’s BBL Cup Final at Arena Birmingham the prize for the victors.
“To play against Newcastle and now Leicester is the toughest of the tough,” added Newby. “Leicester have been consistently at the top for many years so they will be another good challenge for us.”
Before then Wolves will turn their attention to the British Basketball League regular-season where they begin their campaign by welcoming Surrey Scorchers to the University of Worcester Arena next Friday, December 6 at 7.30pm.
“Surrey have made a few changes since we last played them,” continued Newby. “It’s never easy against them but we want to start our season with some fire and today’s result should give us momentum.”
Photo: Amir Williams in action against Newcastle Eagles. Photo by Keith Hunt.