Durham’s speed was not enough to counter Esh Group Eagles Newcastle’s size and experience as the Wildcats were defeated 73-99 for Match 3 on 5th October. The Wildcats were up by five points midway through the third quarter before Newcastle ended that term with a 26-5 run. In the end it was Newcastle’s offensive production from the paint that separated these North East rivals.
The Wildcats are now 1-2 in league play whilst Newcastle levels at 1-1.
Durham showed resolve and toughness by storming back from a 12-point deficit midway through the second quarter. Down 35-23 with just over five minutes until halftime, the Wildcats forced turnovers and scored on numerous fast break chances to outscore Newcastle 16-8 going into the break. The momentum continued in Durham’s favour after halftime when a John Puk dunk and a Panos Mayindombe three-pointer gave the Wildcats a 55-50 lead, their largest of the match.
Newcastle would regain their rhythm shortly after and commenced on that 26-5 run to give themselves a comfortable lead that lasted for the rest of the match.
“For about 25 minutes of this game we were right there with them,” Head Coach Lee Davie said. “Considering that we are still recovering from injuries and have limited numbers we showed that we can compete with the best team in the league.”
The story for the Wildcats so far this season has been the lack of personnel. Short on players, Puk was left as the lone true big man for the Wildcats. The 6’10 American accepted the challenge of battling the Eagles strong front court presence by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points from his efficient 8 for 12 shooting from the field.
“John is going to be a solid, reliable guy for us,” Davie said. “He had to step up in a role that is not his true position and did a great job defensively. On offence he managed to find the holes in Newcastle’s defence and knock down the open shot.”
Four other Wildcats followed Puk in scoring in double-digits. Chris Jones and Odiba Attah each had 12 and Joel Madourie and Mayindombe both had 10. Madourie started the game strong by scoring his 10 points in the first half before suffering a minor leg injury.
Jones and Mayindombe together stole the ball from Newcastle nine times – five and four times, respectively – and were key in forcing 20 Eagles turnovers. As a team, the Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times which were converted to 24 points for Newcastle.
The Wildcats did not have answer for Newcastle’s front court action. Behind Darius Defoe’s Eagles-leading 27 points and 7 rebounds, Newcastle out-scored Durham 54-40 in the paint and also out-rebounded the Wildcats 39-27. Ralph Bucci and Sam Martin led the Wildcats in rebounds with five each.
Durham will now embark on three road games before returning home on 26th October to face the Manchester Giants.
The Wildcats will travel to Cheshire Phoenix on 12th October for the first BBL Cup match of the season. They will return to BBL Championship action with consecutive road games at Bristol Flyers (18th October) and Plymouth University Raiders (19th October).