THE three-month unbeaten run that saw Worcester Wolves sit top of the British Basketball League finally came to an end at the hands of second-placed Newcastle Eagles.
In front of the largest attendance since their opening game at the University of Worcester Arena last October, Wolves allowed their visitors to take the upper hand at the start and the opening of each subsequent period.
In contrast to recent outings where several lesser lights on the Worcester roster have stepped forward, the 86-78 reversal was marked by little contribution from anyone other than the big three of Alex Owumi, Zaire Taylor and Will Creekmore.
The pattern for the night was established early as Eagles put up the first eight points, six of them coming from guard Malik Cooke.
It was to be the third minute before Owumi set the hosts’ side of the scoreboard ticking and a couple of minutes more before it was again troubled.
Coach Paul James shuffled his formation by inserting Jamal and Kai Williams into the line-up, but this had little effect as Wolves stared at a 31-18 deficit in the opening quarter.
Newcastle forward Charles Smith and reserve guard Paul Gause notched four points apiece as they accelerated to a 39-20 lead after another four minutes had elapsed, before Wolves managed to make inroads.
Inside baskets from Taylor and Creekmore were followed by an outside score from Owumi in a 7-0 run.
Then Owumi was again on the mark to reduce the arrears to 48-38.
However, any hopes of a closer contest were quickly dashed by the sharp-shooting of Smith and his team-mate Drew Lasker, who established a 55-38 cushion two minutes after the break. While Eagles had little difficulty finding their aim, Wolves struggled, putting up numerous off-target shots.
As the third period closed, Worcester benefited from free-throws after a technical foul was called on Darius Defoe, allowing them to make it 65-57.
Unfortunately, as soon as the final 10 minutes of the evening commenced, Wolves yet again took their eye off the ball when permitting Lasker to nail consecutive scores and push matters back out to 70-57.
For the next five minutes, Wolves finally managed to clamp down on the Newcastle offence, limiting them to a mere four points, while steadily building their own total.
Urged on by their noisy supporters, an unlikely comeback seemed possible. A mesmerising dribble and lay-up from Taylor meant his side trailed at only 74-70 with three minutes to play, but business as usual was restored when Cooke and Gause once more connected.
In the final minute, Taylor floated home a three-pointer to again bring the teams tantalisingly close at 82-78, but Newcastle retained enough professionalism to seal the victory from the free-throw line.
Creekmore registered double-double statistics with 23 points and 19 rebounds, as did Owumi with 20 and 11 respectively. Taylor tallied 19 points.
Smith led the way for Newcastle with 19 points, closely followed by Cooke and Gause with 18 apiece.
Wolves visit Sheffield in the BBL Trophy semi-final first leg on Friday.