By Ryan Gillham
Durham Wildcats were outclassed in their 73-102 defeat to local side and Championship hopefuls Newcastle Eagles at the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.
It was the Eagles who came out on top in the first quarter despite an encouraging comeback by the Wildcats bringing the game back to within a point after trailing 1-7 in the opening couple of minutes.
After Durham brought the game back to 8-9 minutes later, but Newcastle powered forward opening up a double figure lead ending the first 12-26.
Darius Defoe and Joe Chapman caused more damage for the Eagles in the second period stretching themselves from the Wildcats as they increased their lead by 21, midway through the quarter at 20-41.
Only a couple of shots fell for the Wildcats in the final few minutes but Newcastle couldn’t be stopped and with some high intensity defence, didn’t give Durham a look in and closing out the half with an 18 point advantage at 30-48.
The tables had turned to start the third with Durham claiming the early points with Mike Baldarelli and Brad Guinane finding their range from three narrowing the margin to 13 points with the score at 46-59.
Durham stretched the Eagles defence finding some open looks underneath the basket but the Wildcats run just seemed to spur on Newcastle as they fought hard on offence to keep Durham at bay with the score at 54-69.
After a blip midway through the third for the Eagles they kept the game in their grasp holding a 16 point lead going into the fourth at 56-72.
The Eagles opened up another 20 point lead in the final stanza as the Wildcats find themselves in foul trouble early on. Newcastle’s lead was extended once again creating a 30 point ball game with Smith, Chapman and Maddox claiming the points at 66-96.
The Eagles broke the 100 barrier with 2 minutes remaining on the clock when Newcastle’s big man Maddox stroked it in from three to make it 100-69. It was Darius Defoe who put the final nail in the coffin with an easy jumper as the score showed on the buzzer, Wildcats 73 – 102 Eagles.
Head coach of the Wildcats, Dave Elderkin spoke about their visitors impressive performance and how he feels the Eagles will take the BBL Championship at the end of the season.
“The Eagles were just too good for us today,” he said. “When the opposition are shooting at 60% and are playing lockdown on defence you know it’s going to be a tough game. They are the team to beat and in my opinion they will win the title come April.”
M.V.P – Joe Chapman (Eagles) Joe set the standard for the rest of his team with some impressive shooting early on and finishing on 22 points on the final buzzer.
Durham Wildcats – Mike Baldarelli; 27 points 5 rebounds; Ralph Bucci; 14 points 5 rebounds; Andrew Keister; 14 points 15 rebounds.
Newcastle Eagles – Joe Chapman; 22 points 5 assists; Darius Defoe; 22 points 5 rebounds; Kareem Maddox; 19 points 15 rebounds.