WORCESTER Wolves will go into the British Basketball League playoffs with a spring in their step after a 92-87 win over Newcastle Eagles in their last fixture of the regular-season.
Friday’s tense meeting at the University of Worcester Arena featured numerous lead changes until, inspired by a surge of three-point shooting from Lamarr Kimble, Wolves managed to establish 88-79 daylight in the final two minutes and hold on for the win.
“Like a lot of our games this year, it was another close one,” said Wolves’ coach Matt Newby. “But, unlike our last couple of matches, this time we managed to stifle what our opponent wanted to do at the end and we closed out the win.
“I’m really pleased that we’ve rounded out our fixtures in the right way, beating a very good Newcastle team and showing some bite going into the playoffs.”
Elijah Burns opened the evening with a baseline drive and snatched the next five home points as the match swung back and forth with Newcastle 26-24 to the good by the end of the first quarter.
Jordan Williams sent his sixth assist in Burns’ direction to level the scores. Four minutes before half-time Williams backed down his defender for a 37-37 tie ahead of a quick double of fouls sending him to a seat on the bench.
As the second half began Eagles moved into their largest lead of the contest at 48-40 before three-pointers from Kimble and Josh McSwiggan pegged them back.
A rousing Burns block of a shot attempt from former Worcester guard Cortez Edwards was followed by an exhilarating stuff through the basket by Daniel Johnson-Thompson, narrowing the gap to just 52-51.
Henry Wilkins eventually tied matters at 58-58 with a triple and Williams profited from a Maarten Bouwknecht hand-off to edge Wolves 66-64 in front entering the final quarter.
Another Wilkins outside success and a perfect three from three long-rangers for Kimble broke the match open.
Newcastle responses were repulsed by harrying defence and Bouwknecht stayed calm at the free-throw line to see out the victory.
Kimble’s 27 points led the scoring while Williams was a whisker away from recording a prized triple-double with a 15 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds stat-line.
Bouwknecht and McSwiggan tallied 13 points apiece and Burns notched nine.
The first legs of all the playoff quarter-finals will take place at Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena on either Monday, May 3 or Tuesday May 4, with the second legs all being hosted by the University of Worcester Arena on Wednesday, May 5 or Thursday, May 6.
Current BBL standings would see seventh-placed Wolves face either Leicester Riders or London Lions in the first round.
However, a win for league leaders Leicester at sixth-placed Cheshire Phoenix tomorrow (Sunday) would mean Wolves jump above Cheshire in the table and then proceed to open their post-season against Plymouth Raiders.
“Whoever we meet out of the top three will be tough,” said Newby. “But we’ll be confident.
“We only had seven turnovers today, our lowest number of the season, and we had twenty-seven assists – that demonstrates a solid team performance at the right time of the year.
“The guys are all excited about what’s coming up in the playoffs. We’ll be working our very hardest to get the best return.”
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